Film and drama Opinion

Bullet Train — fun and murder on an Orient express

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A case full of money brings together an assortment of assassins on board a bullet train to Kyoto, ending in high-speed mayhem. Digital editor Dan Jensen straps in for one wild cinematic ride!

THERE ARE PLENTY of action comedies out there, but it’s rare that one achieves the level of pure entertainment served up by Bullet Train. Directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2) and starring an ensemble cast of great actors, this is a ride that will leave you exhilarated and wanting to go again.

A trained killer, code-named Ladybug (Brad Pitt), is reluctantly sent on a job to retrieve a briefcase full of money on board a bullet train travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto. Meanwhile, an assortment of assassins is also riding the train, each with a story that is linked to the case and whose fates will end in chaos if crossed.

If you think that synopsis is vague, it’s because Bullet Train’s plot is a complex one, with a lot of moving parts keeping the machine running. Aside from Pitt’s character, we also have Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as a couple of Cockney assassins named Tangerine and Lemon, Joey King as a bomb expert named The Prince and Andrew Koji as Yuichi Kimura, a Japanese assassin. These are the main characters driving the story, but there are also a host of side characters played by recognisable actors, some of which are surprise cameos.

For a film mostly set in one location – especially one as confined as a train – Bullet Train manages to tell a fun story among some highly creative and ultra-violent action scenes. This film can get pretty bloody at times, but the violence is so over-the-top that it becomes cartoonish and often quite hilarious. Some of the fight choreography is an absolute joy to behold, particularly scenes where ordinary objects are used as weapons.

But it’s not just the violence that is over-the-top — Bullet Train offers moments that are so far-fetched that suspension of disbelief is a requirement upon embarking on this journey. Things happen that defy logic, including the fact that of the few other passengers riding the train, no one seems to notice the mayhem going on around them. But when a film is this much fun, things like that don’t even matter and can be easily forgiven.

The characters are largely what makes Bullet Train so immensely enjoyable. Each one is totally unique and bears traits that flesh them out into something deeper than Hitman A and Hitman B. Ladybug abhors violence and offers Zen-like philosophies to those with anger issues. Lemon has learnt all he needs to know about people from watching Thomas the Tank Engine. And The Prince can go from lethal assassin to vulnerable, crying schoolgirl faster than the train on which she's wreaking havoc. The characters are memorable and interesting, and every performance is note-perfect.

Another fun aspect is the use of flashbacks to fill in stories, be they necessary or just for a laugh. As the film progresses, more and more blanks are filled in as to why these assassins have come together and how their destinies are intertwined. But there’s even a flashback to tell the story of a bottle of water and while that might seem ridiculous, it actually makes sense and provides a laugh-out-loud moment.

Bullet Train is an action spectacle on the surface, but it also delves into themes of fate and luck, of the difference between controlling destiny or letting destiny control you. While it’s not life-changing stuff, it still offers something that is fun to think about.

Visually, the film is gorgeous. Going from dazzling exteriors of Tokyo to interior scenes bathed in colourful neon light, there are plenty of moments to make the eyes wander about the screen, taking in all the detail. Aside from some cracking cinematography, it’s also an extremely well-edited film, with so many shots fluidly moving into the next at a smooth pace.

Moving this train along is a highly enjoyable soundtrack featuring Japanese versions of classics such as Stayin’ Alive and Holding Out For a Hero. It all combines into something that doesn’t have a dull moment for the entire two-hour run time.

The only minor criticism would be that the plot, as mentioned earlier, does get a bit convoluted at times. It’s sometimes tricky to remember who is who, why they’re there and how they’re connected to everyone else. Thankfully, it’s still possible to just enjoy the moment and take in the fun stuff without really needing to think too hard. But it’s also a case where a second viewing of the film could be more entertaining, going in with prior knowledge of the finer details.

Bullet Train is a must-see for fans of the action/comedy genre and anyone who just wants to have a great time without having to think too hard. It's a little bit John Wick, a bit Speed with some Tarantino thrown in for good measure, but it all adds up to one highly entertaining time at the movies.

Bullet Train is now showing in cinemas across Australia.

★★★★

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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