I haven’t seen nearly as many foreign films this year that I have wanted to, my current tally hasn’t even reached double figures yet! So far I’ve seen two efforts from Asian cinema, a genre that has produced some of my all time favourites like ‘Battle Royale’ and ‘The Raid 2’. Starting off the year I saw ‘The Assassin’ which in my opinion was the epitome of style over substance. All was not lost though, with my first experience of Studio Ghibli and ‘When Marnie Was There’ restoring my faith in these films from the other side of the globe. ‘Train to Busan’ was the next movie from afar to pull into my cinema schedule and I was hopeful for a good ride!
The premise for the movie is quite simple; it follows a group of travelers riding the train whilst elsewhere an outbreak of a virus causes a zombie apocalypse with the story then focusing on their struggle for survival. What caught my attention first as the film began was just how good the film looked. The cinematography was very crisp and made for a very visually appealing watch. It’s a shame that this high quality couldn’t be carried through into the special effects as when these are employed there is a noticeable change in quality. However this element shouldn’t be too heavily criticised as the CGI isn’t awful, it does the job just fine it’s just not as impressive as the overall look to the film. There are a whole host of characters on board the titular train and I enjoyed the variety included, the main cast largely do a good job with many aspects to their performances. My only issue with the cast would come with the more minor characters and even the extras. The nature of this film requires a lot of individuals and at times the performances of those around the main cast just weren’t that good. Again like the CGI a small criticism but one that did take me out of the film a few times.
However, combating the negative of having so many bodies on film was the unbelievable scale that it gave the narrative and this I loved. This contributed a lot to the spectacle of the action sequences which were really well put together. From the choreography of the fight sequences to the individual character moments the action scenes always engaged. Asian cinema is renowned for its horror films, so I was quite dubious before watching this zombie flick. Fear not though as the level of horror is just right here. The zombies are scary enough to make you jump a few times throughout but not so terrifying that you have to watch through your fingers, getting the balance just right for this horror action thriller. The score for the film really adds impact to the action too, injecting a sense of terror but also fun to the proceedings. There is a nice recurring theme used in the softer moments too, which show up more than some might expect. This was a good thing though as it added substance to this film, the tone is so rich with different elements meaning that there really is something for everyone here. There’s badass action moments, suspense and horror, some more emotional scenes and a selection of comedic sections too.
Whilst ‘Train to Busan’ suffers from the performances of the minor cast members, some average CGI and admittedly a little bit of finale fatigue none of these can hold it back from being one of the best films of the year. The shear amount of fun present here is enough for me to reccomend this but the spectacle of the action and the variety present in the narrative makes this a must see for all cinema fans. I’ll be buying multiple return tickets for this one, easily my favourite foreign film of the year.
Rating – 8.5/10
Question: What has your favourite foreign film of 2016 been?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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