Summertime tends to see the release of big Hollywood blockbusters and action films and one that has been widely marketed is Bullet Train. The film follows mercenary Ladybug (Brad Pitt) who is tasked with acquiring a briefcase from a bullet train that is travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto. Ladybug has undergone therapy after experiencing bouts of bad luck throughout his career and applies a newfound optimism to the job. Unbeknownst to him, the bullet train is not only carrying the briefcase owners, Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), but also The Father (Andrew Koji), The Prince (Joey King), assassin The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) and The Wolf (Benito A. Martínez Ocasio aka Bad Bunny). All these characters have their own reason and motive for being on the train yet they all seem to be connected to the mysterious White Death (Michael Shannon).
The film is directed by David Leitch with the screenplay written by Zak Olkewicz based on the book of the same name by Kōtarō Isaka. The majority of the film takes place on the train but the way Leitch directs feels as though each carriage is in its own world. This is a film that has a lot of moving parts and players involved so at times the screenplay does suffer as we get to learn about some characters more than others. Even though Ladybug is the protagonist, it seems that the screenplay has extended portions dedicated to side characters who don’t serve as much to the larger plot or aren’t present in the film for as long. However, the quick edits and action-packed sequences ensure that the audience isn’t bored when watching. Leitch’s direction is clearly inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and while the film’s homage to Japanese culture may not be the strongest, it does remain an entertaining watch throughout.
Brad Pitt plays protagonist Ladybug, who has adopted an optimistic outlook following time in therapy. Trying to avoid any violence on his mission, Ladybug sure enough experiences more violence and gore than ever before but luck seems to swing in his favour. Pitt’s performance is absolutely delightful and charismatic, showcasing a funny side to him like we got to see in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The scenes in which Ladybug begins to ramble about his new perspective on life and seeing the reactions of other mercenaries and assassins on his journey is hysterical.
When it comes to the supporting cast, the highlight undoubtedly is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Tangerine. Taylor-Johnson arguably has the most to play with in terms of characterisation for the supporting characters as he and twin, Lemon, have to deal with the liss of the briefcase. Taylor-Johnson has had an extensive career that spans across multiple genres but Bullet Train feels akin to Kick-Ass in terms of its sweary, non-stop action. However, his performance as Tangerine allows him to channel a rough assassin who also has a soft side, especially when it comes to his brother. In a film full of laugh-out-loud moments, Taylor-Johnson is responsible for a lot of them.
Playing Tangerine’s brother, Lemon is Brian Tyree Henry, who has had an extensive career in TV and film that crosses a multitude of genres. Although he is a dangerous assassin, Lemon shows affection for the TV show Thomas the Tank Engine throughout, saying that he learns a lot about people through the characters on the show. Although the metaphor does grow tiresome eventually, it does allow for some sweet moments, especially between the brothers when things don’t go according to plan. Henry’s performance as Lemon is great and he has great chemistry with Taylor-Johnson, but it feels as though he wasn’t given as much room to develop in the same way that Tangerine is which is a shame as the brothers provide some of the funniest moments in the film such as a flashback where they debate how many people they killed during a mission.
One thing that is undeniable about Bullet Train is how striking it is to look at. The cinematography by Jonathan Sela plays a huge role in this as Sela makes use of various lighting and shots to manipulate the limited space. From the carriage that is dedicated to the fictional anime character, Momomon to the tranquil first-class carriage that is more classic and upscale in design, the bullet train in Bullet Train feels much bigger and grander than what it is.
Bullet Train may have its flaws, but there’s no denying that it is a lot of fun to watch. With a star-studded cast and plenty of exciting action sequences, Bullet Train is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and doesn’t want the audience to either. Brad Pitt is his usual charismatic self as the unlucky “Ladybug” and it’s clear that he is having a lot of fun in the role.
What did you think of Bullet Train? Let me know in the comments below!
Bullet Train is out in UK cinemas now!