Bullet Train Review
When A Diesel Turns Into A Bugatti
By Liselotte Vanophem
If you take a train in the cinematic world, it’s extremely bumpy ride. Think of movies such as “Commute”, Snowpiercer and “ Train to Busan”. Director David Leitch (“ Deadpool 2”, “ Atomic Blonde “) now decided to add his film to this long list of speedy train movies, and also this train ride doesn’t come without risks. Just ask Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who sadly had to go to the hospital for a bit during the “Bullet Train” filming. However, with a stunning A-list cast, fast-paced action and eye-popping cinematography, Leitch brings the train into the station almost in one piece.
While ladybugs symbolise good luck, that might not be the same for assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt). While he always comes out unscathed out of his failed missions, we can’t say the same about the people he encounters. Despite way too many jobs going off the rails, he’s still not ready to quit. Ladybug wants to do one job that at least goes according to plan, and usually, retrieving a specific briefcase should be a piece of cake for a trained assassin.
However, even this mission won’t be as straightforward as he hoped. When stepping on the bullet train, it soon becomes clear that there are other ruthless passengers looking for that briefcase-each with their motives and means to get it. There are the ‘twins’ Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), the Hornet (Zazie Beetz), Prince (Joey King), Kimura (Andrew Koji) and later also the White Death (Michael Shannon).
To get what he wants, both the briefcase and a successful mission, Ladybug has to take on many (maybe way too many?) bloodthirsty hijackers. Who will make it until the last stop?
Apart from a handful of scenes, the entire movie takes place on the bullet train. While the lack of different settings might cause a lot of problems, not for Leitch and his cinematographer Jonathan Sela (“The Lost City”, “ Transformers: The Last Knight “). Before becoming a director, Leitch was a stuntman and clearly used all that knowledge for this movie. The action is swift and furious; every train car has been smashed into smithereens, and bullets, explosions and stabbings follow each other at a speedy tempo. While Leitch was already a master in creating this type of film, he established his reputation again with the head-spinning “Bullet Train”.
Also, the actors show us why they’ve been dominating cinema for a (very) long time now. Pitt (“ Ad Astra”, “ Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood “) carries the movie effortless with his very contagious charm, very-down-to-earth personality and very clever and fast humour (congrats to screenplay writer Zak Olkewicz). While Pitt is the machinist of this movie, he gets the perfect help of Taylor-Johnson and Henry as the twins.
Taylor-Johnson (“ Avengers Age of Ultron”, “ Tenet”) is highly stylish, brutal and humoristic as Tangerine and Henry (“ Godzilla vs. Kong”, “ Joker “) heightens the bad-ass and amusing vibe even more as Lemon. Who came up with integrating Thomas the Tank Engine in this movie deserves an award.
While both Taylor-Johnson and Henry’s performances are great, they become even better when you see them in the same scene. The chemistry and camaraderie between the actors are absolutely on-point, and their banter is quick, engaging, moving extremely contagious. Unfortunately, while the other A-listers certainly bring each their talent to this movie, they don’t get the chance to become impressive due to the lack of screen-time.
The only aspect that puts a speed limit on “Bullet Train” is the use of flashbacks. Yes, it’s great that we see more of each character, how to get on that train, and their motives; due to the massive number of different characters, there are just many flashbacks and interruptions. It would have been better if they had kept to the key characters and interwoven the other background funnily and cleverly in the otherwise very well-written script by writer Olkewicz (“Fear Street: Part Two — 1978”). It’s mainly at the beginning that those flashbacks decrease the movie’s tempo.
Despite the slow beginning and too many flashbacks, “Bullet Train” makes the 2h 06min runtime fly back as fast as the bullet train itself. It has fun, speed, humour and a stunning cast. If you want something more than that, this might not be for you, but if you’ve watched the trailer for “Bullet Train” and loved what you saw, then we have great news for you. The film is exactly like that, just much longer and faster.
“Bullet Train” is out now in U.K. cinemas.
Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com.