Although David Leitch has done just a handful of films, the director has time and again proved that he can deliver an entertainer at the box office. Bullet Train is no different. The Deadpool 2 director adapts the Japanese novel Maria Beetle (published as Bullet Train in English) for the big screen and puts Brad Pitt in the driver’s seat. It is evident that both, the director and the Academy Award winner, had a ball making the film.
To begin with, Bullet Train revolves around a seasoned assassin ‘Ladybug’ (Brad Pitt) who is returning from a hiatus. Filling in for another assassin, the Ladybug’s job is simple — find a briefcase and deboard the train as soon as he gets it. The assassin is guided by his handler, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock). However, owing to Ladybug’s luck, the job only gets complicated with every stop.
He runs into a few old assassins — Brit assassins Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and his ‘twin brother’ Tangerine (Brian Tyree Henry), who is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine; Japanese assassin Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji) and his father The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada); The Wolf (Benito A Martínez Ocasio aka Bad Bunny); Hornet (Zazie Beetz) and Prince (Joey King).
Each assassin the Ladybug crosses paths with, the story takes a new turn. Through each run-in, we learn about the deadly assignments the Ladybug was involved in and how each of them ended with severe deaths, none of which were at the hands of the Ladybug. As the film progresses, fans get to see how complicated the situation gets, and regardless of how hard Ladybug tries to detangle, it only gets hilariously worse.
Bullet Train doesn’t take itself seriously and that is what works for the movie. Scenes from the movie look straight out of an absurd anime show and surprisingly works well for the film. The writing is crisp. Given that there are a number of characters involved and numerous subplots opening up every 15 to 20 minutes, the screenplay by Zak Olkewicz almost manages to evade plotholes.
Not only is the story written well on paper but the execution is also at par. Leitch squeezes in as much action as possible and carefully intertwines every event that unfolds in the movie which is in line with the theme of the film — everything is connected. Leitch also gives the film a dash of Deadpool. The film, much like his Deadpool 2, also breaks the fourth wall, features scenes that are scientifically impossible, and packs in elements of humour in between intense scenes, which stands out. To top it off, the film also has some interesting cameos so watch out for those.
Bullet Train’s pace is as fast as the actual Bullet Train. The film doesn’t give you time to look away from the big screen and zooms to the ending with zero boredom. While it is a great benefit for the film, the pace expects you to keep up even when you are wrapping your head around a particular twist. Much like a 1-minute halt of the bullet train seen in the movie, the film gives you a minute to take in the newly offered information. Take it and jump back on the train.
Another highlight of the film is the cinematography. Jonathan Sela, who has been behind the cameras on films such as John Wick, The Midnight Meat Train, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Deadpool 2, retains the elements of a trademark Leitch film and elevates the visuals to encapsulate the colours of Japan.
Although the film features several impressive actors who help this train from derailing, it was a little disappointing to see that there were very few Japanese actors in the film. Given that the film is based in Japan, at least the extras could have been locals if not for the crucial star cast.
The star of the film is undoubtedly Brad Pitt. The actor shines throughout the film. It is refreshing to see Pitt return to the big screen in a comedy avatar. The actor is brilliantly supported by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, and Benito A Martínez Ocasio. Taylor-Johnson and Henry, in some scenes, overshadow Pitt as well.
As for Benito A Martinez Ocasio, no one can tell this is his first film. However, Joey King seemed like a misfit in the film, especially given her connection to the story.
Bottom line: Bullet Train is packed with trademark David Leitch elements which make the film an entertaining ride. Hop on board the train if you’ve been craving for a pre-pandemic action-comedy.
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