LAST TRAIN TO BUSAN, a Korean zombie film, is everything WORLD WAR Z wanted to be but failed, giving us a simple story with great action scenes and characters we care about. If you’re into zombie movies, everything is familiar, but it’s solidly put together and that’s what makes it so good.
Seok-Woo, a divorced fund manager, lives with his mother and young daughter, Su-an. Su-an is lonely because her father is a workaholic who’s never around, and misses her mommy. For her birthday, Seok-Woo agrees to take her to Busan to see her mother. During their journey, an outbreak of a zombie disease sweeps the country.
There are two types of zombie stories, one in which survivors are under siege and try to defend a stronghold, the other in which they go from point A to B on a quest for sanctuary. LAST TRAIN TO BUSAN is the latter but taking place almost entirely in a high-speed train, giving us a familiar but fresh take.
The zombie action is terrific. In many ways, the zombies are like WWZ zombies, attacking like animals and spilling across spaces like locusts. What really distinguishes the film, however, are the characters. We actually care about them and what happens such that the last scene is actually heartbreaking. I hope Hollywood is paying attention and noting that a film needs good storytelling as much as it does great effects and action. That’s the difference between a film sticking with you and consuming and forgetting it like fast food.
If you like LAST TRAIN TO BUSAN, be sure to check out FLU, another Korean film, if you can find it. The theme here is pandemic, but with the same care, great characters and exciting set-pieces.
Highly recommended for people who like zombies.