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Train To Busan (Blu-ray Review)

Train to Busan posterThere’s nothing like having friends who know you appreciate a good zombie film. Train to Busan is a film I had only heard about thanks to Why So Blu’s Jason Coleman, but he insisted I would enjoy it. As a fan of the George A. Romero classics, as well as some of the more recent entries in the genre ([REC], 28 Weeks Later), this film was said to be offering a unique experience in the world of the undead. This proved to be true, as the film pits zombie hordes against passengers on a bullet train, leading to an intense battle of survival. With some really creative moments and a good amount of drama, Train to Busan basically had everything to make for a fun zombie flick. Now it’s time to dig into the Blu-ray release.

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Film:

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This South Korean production stars Gong Yoo as Seok-Woo, a working father trying to get his daughter to her mother for her birthday. The two board a bullet train in Seoul, headed in that direction. There are many other passengers on board, including a wealthy, selfish man, a blue-collar husband and his pregnant wife, some elderly sisters, a homeless man and a high school baseball team.

Before taking off, one sick woman stumbles boards the train and turns into a zombie. She bites another passenger and this process repeats itself until at least one train car has become infected. Panic and tension ensue, as the other passengers work for and against each other, as they attempt to keep their train safe, as well as switch to other trains in an attempt to reach Busan, the one place where a safe quarantine zone is said to be.

Director Yeon Sang-ho, better known for his work as an animation director, does great work in presenting both the chaos of this sort of situation and the tension that builds between the various passengers. True to the genre, Train to Busan is stacked with different character types whom you want to route for as well as see get taken out by zombies. It’s the sort of heightened situation where drawn-out character development is only so useful, compared to getting a quick rundown of what’s happening and moving from there.

That said, at nearly two hours, there is a good amount of time spent dealing with the numerous characters that initially boarded the train in good health. A clear standout would have to be Ma Dong-seok as Sang-hwa, the working class passenger who turns into a brawler you really hope makes it out alive, given his spirit and work to protect his pregnant wife and others. That said, Gong Yoo’s lead performance provides the film with a heart, as we watch a father who has only wanted to do right by his daughter, deal with such a crazy experience.

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Speaking of crazy, this movie’s zombie action is terrific. The concept of a bullet train with zombies allows for a varied number of scenarios that keep the film moving for the most part and coming up with new ways to deliver on the fun. Utilizing the train’s construction allows for a tense scene involving the overhead baggage area. Another sequence relies on what we know about how the doors work and what triggers the zombies. When adjusting for scale, there are some massive scenes involving the unending number of zombies who chase after the passengers in huge waves reminiscent of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake or World War Z. Given how clever the filmmaking is, even some of the CG effects that standout are more worthy of applause, given the ingenuity to play out certain sequences.

With all of this, there is also room for both emotion and a little social commentary. Both elements are common in the best zombie films and Train to Busan finds a way to deliver on some solid thematic concepts to balance out the action. It’s not quite as deep as other classics and other recent efforts, but the move to deliver on that angle was clearly in mind. Exploring class-based hierarchy is certainly nothing new (Snowpiercer is another insane train-based movie that tackles this much more overtly), but it allows for further understanding of the mindsets of various characters, even if it puts the film at risk of being overlong.

Even if a deeper exploration of the characters’ journey is not what people are looking for, the good news is that Train to Busan is a wild ride to check out. It delivers a lot of what you could hope for with a zombie film, respects its own rules and features a lot of clever moments. It’s also surprisingly not all that gory, all things considered. This doesn’t make the film better or worse, but it shows how this concept has more on its mind. For fans of zombie flicks and/or the cool things Korean cinema can provide to audiences, Train to Busan is a film to see.

 

Video: 

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Train to Busan arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment and its video quality is quite strong. The image looks great throughout, as far as getting a clean and detailed look at the surroundings and characters. The visual effects sometimes come across a bit soft in the daylight scenes, but it hardly affects the viewing experience. The look of the train and its various compartments really goes a long way in showing the kind of detail work to be respected here.

Depth: Given the train setting, we get a lot of shots down the aisles that emphasize a level of dimensionality that works to show the smooth movements between characters.

Black Levels: Black levels are rich and deep, with no signs of crush. The darker scenes go a long way in showing the quality of the black levels in a way that maintains the suspense being built in the film.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite good when really present. The film has a bit of a drab pallet, given the apocalyptic scenario being presented, but the train features a variety of colorful moments, let alone the costumes worn by the characters.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are actually quite strong, as you have to take in both the normal humans and the zombies, who have distinct differences. They are well represented here.

Noise/Artifacts: None.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): Korean DTS-X, Korean 2.0 Sterio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: There’s a strong audio track here, thanks to the Korean DTS-X choice. It’s a great way to maximize the thrills found throughout this film, as you get a variety of audio sources throughout this film. Action is loud and engaging, without overtaking moments of dialogue. Quieter scenes work quite well, without underplaying sound effects and ambient noise. It’s a great track.

Low Frequency Extension: The varied amounts of action allow for a great workout when it comes to the LFE channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: With all that’s going on, it’s great to have a Blu-ray like this that does well to balance everything properly. The rear channels get a lot to work with, despite being front and center-focused.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.

 

Extras:

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Sadly there is not more to be found when it comes to the extra features. While we get a behind-the-scenes look at the film, it would have been great to get a commentary and especially the feature length animated prequel, Seoul Station, also directed by Yeon Sang-ho.

Features Include:

  • Behind the Scenes (HD, 13:51) – Basically a fly-on-the-wall look at the making of a number of scenes.
  • That’s a Wrap (HD, 4:35) – A look at the last day of filming, with interviews from the actors and some of the crew.
  • Trailers (HD)

Summary:

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There is a lot to admire in Train to Busan. Any zombie film that manages to feel different in some way is a success to me right there and this film really manages to deliver on some cool ideas. Not hurting is the desire to keep this film grounded with its characters to some extent, making the action all the more involving. The Blu-ray is solid. Video is quite good, while the audio is excellent. I wish there were more extras, but this is a fine package for anyone looking to pick up a new and very good zombie flick.

Order Your Copy Here

 

3D-BD-TrainToBusan

 

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Train To Busan (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Jason Coleman

    Glad you enjoyed it – great review!