Bullet Train Movie Review

Bullet Train

Bullet Train seamlessly blurs the line between live-action and animation, captivating audiences with its dynamic action sequences and visually arresting design that often evokes the vibrant aesthetics of animated films. Set against a high-speed bullet train hurtling through the Japanese landscape, the movie‘s innovative production techniques blend green-screened sets with intricately crafted miniatures and cutting-edge CGI, creating a captivating tapestry of environments.

The characters within “Bullet Train” possess an intriguing abstract quality, almost reminiscent of characters found within the pages of a comic book. Predominantly comprised of paid assassins and individuals entrenched in the criminal underworld, each character bears intricate connections fueled by personal vendettas or attempts to evade the repercussions of their past choices. These characters, rich with tragic and sentimental narratives, oscillate between shades of malice and pathos, crafting a multifaceted and engaging ensemble.

In a nod to the cinematic legacy established by Quentin Tarantino’s transformative influence in the early nineties, “Bullet Train” presents a cadre of loquacious personalities, often choosing monologues over silence—except when faced with imminent danger. This amalgamation of razor-sharp wit, dark humor, and unyielding tension produces a narrative tone that seamlessly blends tongue-in-cheek comedy with unapologetic pulp storytelling, providing audiences with an immersive and unforgettable cinematic experience.

Brad Pitt takes on the role of Ladybug, a former assassin entrusted with a critical task. His mission: to discreetly board a train, retrieve a valuable briefcase, and discreetly exit. A twist of fate places Ladybug in this role as a last-minute replacement for another operative, revealing a complex interplay of circumstances. Notably, he chooses a path of nonviolence after emerging from an anger management program, a decision that starkly contrasts his lethal past.

Within the enigmatic confines of the train, Ladybug is surrounded by a cadre of extraordinary killers, each with distinctive inclinations towards violence. Among them, Joey King assumes the persona of “The Prince,” initially presenting herself as an innocent schoolgirl repulsed by the cruelty of humanity. Yet, her swift transformation into a cunning and ruthless force underscores the multifaceted nature of her character.

Portraying a duo of bloodthirsty siblings are, Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the latter’s appearance carefully crafted to resemble the infamous malefactor Begbie from the original “Trainspotting.” Having traversed numerous missions, their collective body count seemingly reaching staggering proportions, their current assignment involves safeguarding the coveted briefcase. Intriguingly, they are entrusted with the protection of a despondent young scion (Logan Lerman) hailing from the notorious criminal dynasty known as the White Death.

As the narrative unfolds, these intricate personalities intermingle against a high-stakes train journey backdrop, forming a riveting cinematic experience that explores themes of redemption, deception, and the ever-lingering specter of one’s past.

In this gripping narrative, “The White Death” emerges as a mysterious figure of Russian origin, strategically assuming control of a Yakuza syndicate. Concealing his visage until the climactic conclusion, the deliberate concealment of his portrayal heightens the audience’s intrigue, inviting them to relish in the unfolding revelations rather than prematurely seeking external revelations.

Stepping into the role of “The Elder” is Hiroyuki Sanada, portraying a seasoned yet formidable assassin intrinsically linked to the enigmatic “White Death.” Alongside him, Andrew Koji masterfully embodies “The Father,” the progeny of The Elder. This dynamic duo embarks on an unrelenting quest for retribution, ignited by a tragic incident that left The Elder’s grandchild in a haunting coma—a heart-wrenching push from a department store rooftop triggering the cascade of events.

As the narrative unravels, a pervasive sense of vengeance propels them forward, their sights firmly set on a singular objective: to identify the guilty individual amidst a labyrinthine ensemble of agents of demise. This multi-layered tale weaves a tapestry of suspense, weaving a spellbinding web of motivations and secrets that resonate deeply with viewers, fostering an irresistible allure to discover the hidden truths concealed within the folds of the story.

The narrative initially centers around a clear objective, prominently around the comatose grandson and an enigmatic metal briefcase. However, as the storyline unfolds, introducing a diverse array of characters into the mix, it evolves into a thought-provoking exploration of fate, fortune, and cosmic retribution. Amidst this transformation, the character of Ladybug emerges as a captivating presence, offering insightful and often amusing reflections on these profound themes. These musings are conveyed through interactions with a conduit, Maria Beetle, portrayed by Sandra Bullock, whose voice is channeled through an earpiece.

Ladybug encapsulates the essence of a post-credits Jules from “Pulp Fiction,” having distanced himself from a life steeped in violence. Nonetheless, he finds himself entangled in the complexities of his past existence, wrestling with the formidable commitment he made to abstain from wielding firearms ever again. As the plot delves deeper, Ladybug’s commentary assumes an almost instructional quality, guiding decoding of the film‘s underlying intentions.

“Bullet Train” seamlessly weaves its characters’ interconnectedness, transcending mere superficiality to resonate as a contemplative statement on the intricacies of destiny, luck, and the balance of cosmic justice. The interplay between Ladybug’s insights and the unfolding events unveils a compelling cinematic experience that entertains and encourages profound introspection.

The characters are introduced with stylistic on-screen typefaces followed by flashback montages, reminiscent of the signature approaches employed by acclaimed directors such as Quentin Tarantino, mainly drawing from the visual aesthetics of “Kill Bill,” and Guy Ritchie, known for pioneering a distinctive form of action where verbal exchanges transform into visceral confrontations resembling verbal jabs turned into physical blows.

Engaged in relentless combat, the protagonists employ an array of weaponry ranging from firearms and blades to bare fists and agile footwork, ingeniously utilizing any available objects as improvised engagement tools. The central briefcase emerges as a versatile instrument, serving alternately as a shield against oncoming attacks and an impromptu bludgeon in battle.

Amidst the intense action, the characters engage in witty banter, their exchanges serving as a dynamic backdrop to their physical struggles. The narrative occasionally takes poignant turns, transitioning into moments of heartfelt lamentation upon a character’s demise. The exceptional acting prowess of the cast underscores this emotional depth. However, these moments of introspection are juxtaposed against the film’s prevailing aura of fun and surface-level engagement, preventing the audience from experiencing profound emotional resonance.

The cinematic endeavor is helmed by David Leitch, a distinguished figure whose background as a former stunt coordinator and screen double for luminaries such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and the film’s protagonist, Brad Pitt, imparts unparalleled expertise to the project. Leitch was also a collaborative force with Chad Stahleski, recognized for his directorial contributions to the esteemed “John Wick” series. Leitch has carved a niche for himself as a maestro of sophisticated acrobatic spectacle, underscored by his directorial achievements in “Deadpool 2,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”

Within the tapestry of “Bullet Train,” Leitch demonstrates his mastery in orchestrating high-octane chaos, a skill that has garnered him accolades. The film’s audacious visual aesthetics flirt with realms reminiscent of the visionary psychedelia found in “Speed Racer,” offering an exhilarating experience that captivates and astonishes.

However, the assessment of whether this particular endeavor holds inherent value is a distinct consideration. The project straddles a delicate line, asserting the insignificance of its lighthearted and seemingly trivial components while simultaneously endeavoring to deliver poignant moments intended to evoke a profound emotional response. The narrative concerning Henry and Taylor-Johnson remarkably achieves this delicate balance, propelled by the palpable fraternal affection they convey even amid their playful banter. Noteworthy is the actors’ ability to forge an immediate and profound connection with the audience, transcending linguistic nuances such as their Cockney accents, which might not meet the standards of a refined production like “My Fair Lady.” (The film’s paramount accomplishment lies in Henry’s adeptness at incorporating his character’s recurrent likening of individuals to figures from Thomas the Tank Engine, thereby preventing the gimmick from becoming grating on principle.)

However, the remaining elements come across as contrived and need more authenticity. “Bullet Train” shines brilliantly as a comedy centered around self-proclaimed burdensome individuals who perceive themselves as independent operators but ultimately emerge as mere travelers on a high-speed train hurtling from one destination to another. This narrative underscores their disregard for the aspirations of fellow passengers. Nonetheless, the film’s penchant for abstraction and its humor grounded in a carefree attitude dilute certain elements that could otherwise profoundly resonate with the audience, failing to establish a lasting impact.

The project undertakes a distinctive abstraction in its approach. Rooted in a Japanese novel authored by Kōtarō Isaka and originally featuring Japanese characters, the creative reins transitioned from Antoine Fuqua to director David Leitch and his team. This transition departed from the initial notion of a more serious “Die Hard on a Train” concept. Leitch and his team imbued the narrative with a genuinely international essence, with Brad Pitt, Leitch’s longstanding collaborator, leading the ensemble cast.

While contemplating potentially relocating the storyline to a European backdrop, a conscious decision was made to retain the evocative Japanese setting. This decision, underpinned by the rationale that “Bullet Train” is a cinematic marvel that transcends geographical boundaries, has sparked intrigue and ignited discussions on its ethereal and universally resonant nature. The film’s fantastical quality bestows it with the remarkable ability to unfold seamlessly in any locale, thus existing in a realm that transcends specific geographical markers.

The artistic choices in “Bullet Train” prompt a closer examination, particularly in its profound reliance on Japanese cultural symbols and sensibilities. The character portrayed by King, reminiscent of an anime “schoolgirl” avatar brought into reality, raises questions about the interplay between fantasy and reality. The incorporation of distinct Japanese elements is undeniable, underscored by a cast of characters primarily detached from their original cultural contexts, barring a select few conforming to Yakuza stereotypes. Among these, an intriguing inclusion is a Russian leader reminiscent of Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects,” a choice that challenges plausibility even within the realm of fantasy.

While the film’s narrative framework diverges from conventional realism, a consideration emerges: could the film have embraced a more stylized and immersive approach akin to “Speed Racer” or “The Matrix”? Such a direction might have fully leveraged its green-screen technology, liberating the story to unfold in futuristic settings on distant planets or within alternate dimensions. This approach, while reminiscent of Marvel superhero films, would have provided the characters with a heightened sense of transience, escaping the trope of resurrection after demise. Envisioning such a transformation, “Bullet Train” could have transcended technical aspirations, evolving into a captivating masterpiece rather than a meticulously executed film that leaves minimal emotional and intellectual imprints.