Train to Busan : Grotesque setting facilitating individual growth

Train to Busan is a Korean zombie thriller film about a group of survivors. Their last hope of survival is to make it to Busan. The film stars Gong Yoo (Seok-woo) and Kim Su-an (Su-an) in primary roles. Jung Yu-mi (Seong-kyeong), Ma Dong-seok (Sang-hwa), Choi Woo-shik (Young-guk), Ahn So-hee (Jin-hee) and Kim Eui-sung (Yon-suk) form the secondary characters.

Director Yeon Sang-ho takes the wise decision to focus the narrative on the films’ characters, their motivations, and the decisions they make in an apocalyptic scenario. As a result, Train to Busan takes viewers on a journey that is both exciting and action-packed, as well as unforgettable and heartbreaking.

The grotesque setting of Train to Busan

The zombies appear in waves, rushing and crawling over one another to get to the appetizing humans. They literally exemplify the phrase “mountains and seas of people”! Furthermore, these are lightning-fast zombies who appear out of nowhere to attack, adding to the tense atmosphere. Finally, there are a lot of glass walls and panels. These are always loaded with zombies trying to burst through from the opposite side. Even though much of the journey is on a train, this journey to Busan is absolutely terrifying.

Zombies in Train to Busan
Zombies in Train to Busan

The claustrophobic environment of the train adds to the film’s intensity and combat sequences. When Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Min Yong-guk (a baseball player) are caught in the back of the train, they must fight their way through the zombie-infested railroad coaches to reach their loved ones at the front. They adopt creative techniques and make use of their surroundings to dodge the zombies along the route. One of these techniques is arming themselves with baseball bats and duct-taping their arms (one of the most vulnerable places for zombie bites). They also take advantage of the darkness of the tunnels along the route to sneak past the zombies.

Sang-hwa, Seok-woo and Min Yong-guk adopting creative techniques to counter the zombies
Sang-hwa, Seok-woo and Min Yong-guk adopting creative techniques to counter the zombies

Character Growth

Unlike most zombie-action movies, this film takes the time to flesh out its characters. Thus, ensuring that both the action and the emotional beats keep the audience engaged. All of the characters have their own storylines, which become intertwined throughout the film as they fight to stay alive.

Seok-woo starts off as the stereotypical father who tries to purchase Su-an’s affection with money, rather than time. He is confronted with the devastating implications of his parenting failings when he learns what she actually needs. Su-an, on the other hand, despises her father and his selfishness, and makes her disgust clearly felt. But in the end, both find what they’re looking for in a father-daughter bond. Seok-woo’s transformation into the father Su-an needs is the film’s most human and emotional element.

Su-an and Seok-woo
Su-an and Seok-woo

Yon-suk is exactly the evil counterpart to Seok-woo. This makes the plot more personal since we want to see the antagonist slain by the zombies. His character heightens the suspense because you never know when he will betray them. The importance of empathy is one of the film’s key themes. Sang-hwa, in contrast to Seok-woo, is caring and bold, always prioritizing the safety of other passengers. Seok-woo’s selfish behaviors are reminiscent of Yon-suk’s, who is always endangering passengers for his own gain. Yon-suk serves as a stark reminder of what Seok-woo might become if he continues along his narcissistic path.


In the course of the developing bond between father and daughter, we also observe how Seok-woo’s innate character isn’t as deeply immoral as it had appeared in the beginning. He isn’t a saint, but he is a far better person than his daughter and the others around him give credit for. We, and Su-an, see the good in our primary protagonist as he continually faces life-threatening situations. As a result, one of the most gratifying character journeys in a horror film has been achieved.

Swaham Mohanty

I am just another socially awkward human-being, trying my hands on writing.

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