Bullet Train – Film Review
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Zazie Beetz, Sandra Bullock
Director: David Leitch
Synopsis: A group of assassins aboard a high-speed train in Japan discover that their respective missions are interconnected…
Review: Trian delays and cancellations, expensive fares and overcrowding in stations and on platforms, are some of the many problems that can all quickly turn the most pleasant of journeys into a nightmare. Hence, the idea of a super-fast train that could get you to your destination in an even shorter time seems like it would be the speediest and most stress-free commute ever. Yet, imagine if your train had several dangerous, highly skilled assassins, sitting in its carriages, it might well persuade someone to look for alternative routes. However, with director David Leitch the conductor of this service, this is one train ride you will definitely want to board.
Ladybug (Pitt), is a down-on-his-luck assassin, who while extremely good at his job is, determined to get out of the profession. Tasked by his handler (Bullock) to get on the world’s fastest bullet train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto, retrieve a briefcase, and get off at the next stop seems like an easy enough assignment. However, matters get considerably complicated when Ladybug realises that he is not the only one aboard the train who has taken an interest in the briefcase. With a plethora of highly skilled assassins on board (with what at first glance appear to be unrelated missions), the realisation soon dawns on Ladybug that there is a connection between their presence and the highly dangerous criminal known only as The White Death. Turning what should have been a simple mission into a more complex one, Ladybug finds himself entangled in a brutal web of violence that goes off the rails in a thrilling manner.
Adapted from Kôtarô Isaka’s novel of the same name, Zak Olkewicz’s screenplay wastes very little time establishing the key characters at play that all for one reason or another, have an interest in this briefcase. The screenplay also utilises non-linear storytelling to establish each character’s motivations and who is in whose respective crosshairs. The use of non-linear storytelling can initially be a bit hard to follow. However, once you have reached the light at the end of this tunnel and the tracks converge, all becomes clear.
There are a pair of contract killers who go by the aliases of Tangerine (Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Tyree Henry), a mysterious assassin known as The Prince (King) who puts on a youthful persona to her advantage in order to deceive her enemies, an assassin known as the Wolf (Ocasio) is out on a deeply personal revenge mission. Lastly, there’s Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), who like The Wolf, is also on a deeply personal mission following a family accident. Lastly, you have Kimura’s father, known only as the Elder (Sanada) who’s doing all he can to protect his family. However, for all of the wonderful talent that the film undeniably boasts, there is an element of whitewashing that is extremely difficult to overlook. Given the film’s source material and the setting, to have only two Japanese actors among the core cast feels like a massive missed opportunity.
Despite that misstep with the casting, every actor here is having a ton of fun with the material, and for the first two acts of the film, it is a delightfully riveting watch. Like the speeding bullet train, the mystery of this case, why all these different assassins with different agendas are after it begins to unravel in a gloriously bloody fashion. Brad Pitt is someone who has carved a career as one of the most recognisable A-listers working today, and once again, he brings his usual charisma. It is however Tyree Henry and Taylor-Johnson, as the hilarious double act of British assassins who steal the show. Sharing witty and often hilarious banter over topics such as Thomas the Tank Engine, these guys have built a very sincere familial-like friendship built over the missions they have shared together, making their relationship the heart and soul of the film.
David Leitch is well versed in the world of action filmmaking, especially given his prior stuntman experience. His attention to detail provides Bullet Train with an eye-pleasing visual aesthetic, that boasts highly stylised action scenes and violent payoffs. Confining the action scenes to the narrow aisles of a speeding train is a refreshing change of pace, as it gives the characters a real headache, forcing them to scrap in an area where there is not exactly much room to hide. Despite clocking in at two hours and six minutes, this particular train journey begins to run out of steam towards the end, and would have benefitted if it had concluded its journey a few stations prior. Nevertheless, the end product is such a riotous blast of fun that by the time this train has reached the end of the line, you will want to immediately book a return ticket.
It might seem like the commute from hell, but with pulsating action and every single member of the cast having a blast, makes this particular train journey an extremely enjoyable and exhilarating ride.