The Korean zombie-flick Train to Busan is a thrilling experience; great storytelling, powerful cinema and arrestingly other. Though the zombies are the high-speed rabid types familiar from 28 Days Later and more recently World War Z, the sensibility is decidedly eastern. The action stays on a bullet train throughout. Aside from one sequence in a station, we live in claustrophobic carriage interiors. There’s a unity of time too – we cover maybe three hours or so of a single day. The action is gritty and brutal. The cast is nuanced, the characters flawed. In short, almost all the tropes we’d expect of the just-add-water-and-stir Hollywood apocalypse were absent.
It got me to thinking how bad the Hollywood remake will be when it arrives. Here are five things I think money-obsessed risk-averse execs will change when they meet to discuss ‘Train to San Fran.’
1.“People. We need more exterior shots of collapsing cities! Maybe with an earthquake.”
Cityscapes are rare in TTB and beautifully handled. We see smudges of smoke, abandoned blocks, and spookily-empty streets on maybe three or four occasions. At no point is an iconic building seen collapsing under a zombie-horde dam-burst or anything equally idiotic.
2.“We have a train movie, and we don’t have a climbing-along-the-roof sequence? Are we crazy? Hey – we could do the thing with the approaching tunnel!”
TTB opts to restrict the action to inside the train. Sliding doors are used to great dramatic effect. The imminent danger is intensified and the violence kept brutal and close-quarters precisely because Indiana Jones style roof-based escpades are impossible.
3.“Guys. Why don’t we blow the train up? Y’know. Detach the back half with a kick-ass BOOM?”
There is one small explosion in TTB. Hollywood is so in thrall to fireballs, a weird kind of expectation-inflation has occurred and audiences have reached such a level of desensitisation that the disintegration of an entire zip-code leaves us shrugging and picking popcorn from our teeth.
4.“Our protag isn’t skilled enough. Too ordinary. Make him a zombie expert. Oh, and an ex-marine. Is Chris Pratt available? Call Chris.”
TTB opt to go with a heartless city-trader who wears soft-soled slippers in his apartment and has never even creased his ice-white shirt, let alone had it bloodstained. He’s so patently out to save himself and screw everyone else in the process, it’s fascinating and refreshing to watch in equal measure.
5.“Raise the stakes! We’ve only got the passengers’ lives at risk here. Put a zombie-antidote on the train! They have to get it to the CDC by six pm. We can have a countdown to the destruction of THE ENTIRE PLANET! This is gold!”
No it’s frickin’ not.