Love is a lot of things: strange, complex, mutable, life-affirming, and difficult. But one thing that love isn’t and can never be is selfish. While it’s easy to love (or at least pantomime love) when things are going well and when life is easy, love is never tested quite so thoroughly as when it is inconvenient and requires sacrifice. And nothing is a greater test of love than a life-threatening situation. Train to Busan features love in one of the most harrowing, frightening situations that most people could possibly imagine: a zombie apocalypse.
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is an overworked, divorced fund manager who is raising his little girl, Soo-an (Kim Su-an), with the help of his elderly mother. Soo-an, though beloved by her grandmother, is starved for her father’s attention, and missed her mother, whom she speaks to nightly, terribly. When Soek-woo is forced to come to terms with how much his daughter longs for his ex-wife, he stops giving her empty promises and agrees to take Soo-an to Busan to see her mother for her birthday.
Within two minutes of the film, the foundation was set, and when Seok-woo and Soo-an board the train with various families, work commuters, and a high school baseball team, the impending doom is cemented when an injured, convulsing girl jumps on board the train last minute. Once she turns into a zombie, the girl sparks an attack that takes hold of the passengers and spreads like wildfire. Amid the fear, panic, and trauma, the audience glimpses some astounding displays of self-sacrifice, friendship, and teamwork, as well as the expected selfishness and warped sense of self-preservation.
Train to Busan is riveting, features beautiful cinematography, and an engaging cast of interesting characters. But what makes this film not only terrifying, but so tragically beautiful is the love put into action. Love is a verb, after all, and as we see young love, marital love, parental love, and sibling love evolve and inspire such selfless bravery and ingenuity, we are reminded of the profound capacity to love which resides in the human spirit. Train to Busan will scare, anger, sadden, and inspire you so seamlessly, over and over again. This film is a ride that audiences won’t soon forget.
I give this one 5 stars.