One thing I felt Train To Busan did very well was its character development.
As the movie began…I didn’t like Seok-woo. He was the Korean equivalent of a stereotypical Wall Street jerk: Too busy to be there for his daughter, he didn’t care about his smaller clients, and essentially advises his daughter that, in a time of crisis, be a selfish ass. Seok-woo’s only saving grace is that he’s protective of Su-an, enough to insist on taking the train with her, despite her insistence that she can go on her own.
All of that said: I like the fact I didn’t like Seok-woo.
I found it refreshing having a protagonist that has to earn the audience’s respect. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a straight-up hero like Rick Grimes in my zombie stories, but, as my “Who’s The Worst?” articles should make clear, I love seeing characters redeem themselves. Having my main character be the one who has to redeem himself (And he does) is something I enjoy.
Of course the true heart and soul of the movie is Su-an, by leaps and bounds. Su-an is very much the moral compass of the movie, acting on a pure desire to be nice to everyone she comes across.
As mentioned earlier, when she sees In-gil without a seat, she offers hers without hesitation. What’s more, when her father gives her his rather crummy advice, she calls him out, saying he doesn’t care about anyone else.
Additionally, when she first encounters Homeless Guy huddled in fear in a bathroom, another passenger, Mr. Yon-suk (Who I call “Captain Business”), gives her the rather common warning “If you don’t do good in school, you’ll end up like that”. Su-an replies that her mother told her that people who say that are usually bad people.
As the movie progresses, Su-an becomes something of a moral compass for her father, and subsequently, make him more likable in the process.
Su-an’s good nature also helps form the basis of the eventual relationship between her and her father and the pair of Sang-hwa, and his pregnant wife, Seong-kyeung, despite her father’s selfishness. Again, I don’t recall a formal introduction for Sang-hwa, so I called him Blue Suit.
When the zombies begin to wash over the passengers of the train, Seok-woo (Carrying Su-an) and several other passengers ran for the safe cars, Blue Suit and his wife, hampered by her condition, fell behind.
With several people (Including Captain Business) telling Seok-woo not let them in, as they the infected would likely follow them, he complies, shutting the car door in their faces. They get in, but only just.
As time progresses, Blue Suit begins to talk with Su-an, asking her if Seok-woo is indeed her dad. This becomes important later. Sometime after helping Seok-woo escape the Cheoson platform, Blue Suit’s comments suggest it’s because his impending fatherhood has made him appreciate fellow dads, even if he doesn’t like them.
Frankly, next to the obvious relationship between Seok-woo and Su-an, the friendship between Seok-woo and Blue Suit is easily the best.
Kind of like Rick and Daryl in The Walking Dead, the two start out on the wrong foot, but, as they have to rely on each other to survive, they become friends, with each one saving the other.
Speaking of people who don’t like each other, I can’t finish this without addressing the eventual villain of the film, Yon-suk, a.k.a., “Captain Business”.
What makes Captain Business such a good villain is his descent into being one slowly builds as the movie progresses.
Initially, his demands are reasonably pragmatic. However, after Cheoson, where he tells the conductor to start the train before the remaining survivors made it back, he crosses into evil territory.
When Jin-hee (A female classmate of Young-guk) tries to communicate with Young-guk via text, Captain Business convinces the other passengers to hold her captive and smashes her phone to put a stop to it; Next, when Young-guk tries to keep the door open so Su-an, Seung-kyeung, Homeless Guy, In-gil, and Seok-woo can get to safety, Captain Business leads a group of passengers in an attempt to close the door on him (Possibly even breaking his arm in the process);
Then, when Seok-woo and company get inside, Captain Business incites a mob to exile the survivors and Jin-hee to the baggage car; And finally, while the conductor is trying to find a new train, Captain Business eventually throws the Train Manager, Jin-hee, and The Conductor into zombies to save his own skin.
Captain Business is, hands down, the biggest “That , Guy” in South Korea.
All-in-all, while the story and presentation are great, what makes Train To Busan so enjoyable are the characters. Throughout the movie, we watch even the minor characters change in the face of the apocalypse and we watch the relationships between them change, too.
Some characters become good, others became evil, but, always circling around the moral compass that was Su-an. When all was said and done, Su-an’s moral compass made her father a better man, and with his love, she was able to find sanctuary.
But what do you think? Have you seen Train To Busan? Did you enjoy it? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!
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