Movies Of The Week on TV: Train To Busan


On Sunday

The Lighthouse, 12.50pm & 9.45pm, Sky Cinema Debut.

Quite the story of a fairy. Robert Pattinson landed on the remote New England coast in the 1890s in Robert Eggers’ black-and-white psychological horror film, where he was on duty with Willem Dafoe at a lighthouse. Cue inventive curses, eerie dreams and a creepy seagull. Throughout, the Lighthouse teeters on the verge of absurdity, but Pattinson and Dafoe owe it all, and you’ll be rewarded if you go for it. You certainly won’t have seen anything quite like it, at the very least.

About Monday

Film4, A Quiet Spot, 9 p.m.

In this sci-fi horror thriller in which silence is the only protection against blind aliens that respond to sound, John Krasinski directs and stars. Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, who seeks to keep his family alive alongside his wife, Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt). When you are suitably unnerved, you probably won’t care about whether the premise is really valid.

On Thursday

Film4 of Sicario, 9 p.m.

A film of frightening beauty. It follows Kate Macer (another Emily Blunt appearance this week), set against the backdrop of Mexican drug cartels operating on the American border, as she takes on a new assignment as a member of the Special Arms and Tactics unit of the FBI. Director Denis Villeneuve keeps the action moving with ruthless efficiency, and in a landscape which lacks just that consistency, Blunt acts as the voice of reason.

On Friday

Film4 Train to Busan, 11:20 p.m.

On a train, zombies. It’s that. In a nutshell, that’s the tale. What else are you supposed to know?

Granted, yes, the 2016 film by Sang-ho Yeon also explores conformity and fear in South Korean society, the role of fathers in modern capitalist society, and is, by the way, a hymn to the high-speed rail system in the region.

But really, you’re watching the movie because it’s about zombies — South Koreans, if that’s not obvious yet — and they’re attacking people on a train. It is as easy as that. Who will survive? And who is going to be bitten and turned into a bloody, milk-eyed beast ready for the next best human flesh to be devoured? Continue watching.

With “Train to Busan” the first thing to say is that it’s a journey. Breathless, cleverly crafted entertainment is the almost two-hour film; a mixture of disaster film and horror spectacle that sketches its characters in large strokes without ever resorting to stereotypes. “(There’s a moment at the beginning where we see a zombie attack from a train window that has a creepy “did I just see that?” feel to it.) The horror is properly gory and well staged. And the sequences of action, though at times a little unplausible, pass so smoothly that you’re able to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Fund manager Father Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) and his cute daughter Soo-an are on board the train (Kim Su-an, who delivers a performance that never smacks of “child actor”). To reunite Soo-ann with her mother (Seok-ex-wife), woo’s they fly from Seoul to Busan.

It’s not the happiest relationship between father and daughter, and one of the suspects Soo-ann would think even less of her father if she knew he was financing the shady biotech firms that might be behind the virus that transforms humans into gnarled, deformed carnivores.

But soon he must try to protect his daughter as the zombie attacks begin on board and the passengers – a motley crew of retirees, baseball-playing school kids and cheerleaders, a good worker and his pregnant wife, and the inevitable self-serving CEO (played lustily by Kim Eui-sung) who would sacrifice anything (and anyone) to ensure his own survival – must fight with anything they can get their hands on (mostly not guns; this isn’t America, after all).

The more subtle moments of the film are not totally overshadowed by the gleeful intensity and surprises, but they are the key pleasure. The film can’t be said to have the heft of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, or even the desire to reinvent the zombie mythology, as in Colm McCarthy’s underrated film The Girl With All the Gifts (based on Mike Carey’s novel), which came out the same year. He’s far more orthodox than any of them.

Still, the tensions between young and old and between classes in South Korean society are sufficiently satisfyingly presented, and the film has a healthy mistrust of staid figures of authority. We need to remain calm and trust the government. We believe in this.


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