Train to Busan


(spoiler free)

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!)

Thanks for reading this review and please let me know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.


11 thoughts on “Train to Busan

  1. My personal favourite foreign flick this year so far has been ‘Mustang’. But like you, I’ve not seen nearly as many as I should. Lots to catch up on before the awards – Jakob

    • Ah that’s one of the many I have missed. That and ‘Victoria’ stand out to me as ones I have to catch up on. My total is 7 so far. Gotta try and get it to at least 10 before the year is up!

  2. I absolutely loved this film. I thought it was a great ride from start almost to the finish (dragged a little bit towards the end). Surprisingly emotional and with nice little injections of humour, great action sequences and moments of tension. And it just looks beautiful (even covered in blood!).
    Didn’t quite beat Suburra as my favourite of the year but it’s up there.

    • So glad that audiences are on the same page with this one, this film is awesome and I’m so pleased you think so too mate! It definately had a few issues knowing when to finish the film but it can be forgiven due to what came before it. There were so many really well done touching moments. I missed Suburra as well, I’ll have to catch up with that for sure, especially if you liked it more than this!

      • If you liked Gomorrah (i’ve just read your review and it seems like it!), then Suburra should be a good fit for you.
        What have been your foreign film highlights this year? And your favourites in general?
        I love a bit of international flavour in my viewing, it is so refreshing to watch and, as with eastern cinema (Korea/Japan) there is a real desire to not pull any punches, to tell a tale like it should be, no matter the topic. I really appreciate that.

      • Yeah I did quite enjoy Gomorrah, but would defintely be keen for a similar story in a film context rather than a series, even more reason to check it out I suppose! I’ve only managed to see seven foreign titles so far this year and apart from Train to Busan my other favourites would have to be When Marnie Was There and Disorder. In general I’ve found 2016 to be a belter of a year with many great films, I’ll be compiling a Top 50 list at the end of the year which will included the likes of The Revenant, Bone Tomahawk and The Nice Guys! What have your favourites been?

      • I’m trying to put together a top 50 of all time, so hard to do! I’ve got a top 10 of the year which is still in flux and might need extending!
        It would include The Neon Demon, Hell or high water and The Witch amongst others. You are right though, this year has had some amazing films. Look forward to seeing your list, not long now to decide….

      • That’s a massive task, I’ve tried to do it a few times but I can never manage it, I love too many! The Neon Demon will be up there for me too. I’m looking forward to finalising it. Still a few releases which could have a big impact on it.

  3. Excellent, glad you enjoyed it. I loved Train to Busan, and it’s a shame it won’t be seen by too many people here in the UK. I’m not sure how widely it’s being released elsewhere.
    – Lee (weegieMovies)

    • Wasn’t it so good!? There was so much I loved about this movie and I can’t wait to re-watch it. I think it was only available to see at the cinema where I am for a week, with one screening per day. Hopefully it will hit Netflix and be watched by all those that missed it.

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