A fast train to Busan was struck by a terrible plague and the remaining passengers and crew had little choice. They can not stay on the train, of course. But they also can not stop and exit the train, because the same plague also hit the country. Train to Busan takes the standard zombie film formula and turns it into a drama that may only work on a specific cultural background. Some of the most crucial scenes involve a sentimental moment, rather than a sensational action scene. In Hollywood, stories like this can be a manipulative melodrama that makes us grimace.
This film is not a zombie movie where the main characters are hacking or crushing the head of a zombie in one blow. You will not see body pieces or brain spills (baseball bat is not strong enough to destroy a zombie skull). Of course there are still horrific scenes like zombies that tear human flesh or dozens of zombies clustered to each other ala World War Z, but this is a plot mechanics to show how a humane character acts in a precarious situation. This film is probably the closest scenario in case the zombie outbreak really does happen in the real world.
The source of the disaster was a woman whose condition was clearly unhealthy, ascending to the train in the final seconds of departure, which the guards did not even realize. It is a general rule that characters in serious zombie movies never watch or have any reference to zombies. This method is intended so that we can learn how his character learns zombie behavior. Initially, this woman wanted help, but did not take long until one car turned into a horde of human-eating corpses.
The plot involves several characters. Most important is an egocentric fund manager named Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) who intends to bring the child, Su-an (Kim Su-an) to visit his wife's place to be divorced. In the same car, Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) is fighting sweetly with his pregnant wife, Sung-kyung (Jung Yu-mi). Another carriage was filled with baseball teams which included two teenagers involved in a one-handed romance. All of this is told efficiently by writer / director Yeon Sang-ho. He is not in a hurry, giving us space to bond with them.
Sang-ho also tells the outbreak of the plague in a simple exposition. At the beginning of the film, a truck driver hit a deer in a location where he was quarantined due to chemical contamination. Without his knowledge, the deer turned out to be alive again. No spectacular commotion on the streets, army invaded towns or busy officials calling here and there. What we see is video footage from news channels, dashed transmissions from other stations and people on the station running around frantically trying to reach the train. Although we do not see directly, we have got a tense picture of what happened. This is a wise choice because global turmoil requires special effects that are competent and adequate budget.
The zombie here is a modification of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, which makes every scene of the zombie feel urgent. They're great runners. They are violent. They are not afraid of light. And most importantly, they spread rapidly. Our characters then know that they are also sensitive to sounds and just attack what they see moving. There are situations where our character must strategize to pass through several carriages in order to save loved ones. I will not talk any further than his tactics involving duct tape, mobile phones, and the top luggage.
Without putting aside his thrilling sequence of action, Train to Busan is more dependent on the characters. They are not ordinary people who suddenly become superhero killing zombies. They are just ordinary people who try to survive with makeshift accommodation. There are moments where they have to choose between themselves or their loved ones. The biggest conflict is about morality and the climax is the culmination of all previous events. Even the most evil person (Kim Eui-sang) is still an ordinary human who has his own reasons.
Like most other superior Korean films, the structure of the film is made in such a way as to keep the audience's attention. Although his zombie element is familiar, his plot is intelligent; reversing our expectations with unexpected points, although experienced viewers may already be able to guess the person who will die. Quite rare mainstream horror films that can still surprise us through the development of the plot instead of a twist. Writing here will reduce the enjoyment you are planning to watch.
I've read that trains in Korea are one of the most convenient means of fast transportation in the world. Train to Busan is not a nonstop trip without turbulence, but it can regain momentum as soon as its speed slows. A more precise analogy might be the roller coaster; he teases adrenaline and stirs up emotions.