The Summer Movie Season of 2022 has been quite an interesting moment in pop culture. The ‘Top Gun’ sequel dominated the box-office, aliens were reinvented in ‘NOPE‘, Elvis became cool again and the Minions united teen boys everywhere to dress up in suits and go to the theatres. Needless to say, it was a Summer for fun movies, both bad and good, looking at you ‘Jurassic World’. What I appreciated so much about not only this Summer but the entire year so far, it’s that originality is taking back it’s rightful place at the box-office. Now you could argue that ‘Bullet Train’ is based on a book but even then, it’s not a sequel, prequel, requel, reboot or in-universe thing and it did considerably well at the box-office, not as much as it should have but it definitely wasn’t a flop either. Audiences didn’t seem to let any of the major Summer releases down and that’s quite exciting to hear. I was definitely excited to watch this movie but I will admit, after watching that trailer before every movie I’ve seen all Summer long, I wasn’t the most enthusiastic soul sitting down to watch ‘Bullet Train’ but I was so surprised by how much this movie worked for me. This might be one of my favourite action movies in recent memory actually.
spoilers for ‘Bullet Train’ are featured in this review.
The plot of ‘Bullet Train’ is something familiar taken to an extreme level. A group of random, unrelated strangers board a bullet train only to find that their paths intertwine in quite an interesting way. What follows is stylistic bloodshed, genuinely effective comedy and an instantly loveable cast of characters that you can’t help but root for, even if they are villainous. What is instantly noticeable in this film is the incredible pacing, it gets almost instantaneously to the action and from then on it never quite stops. There is something to be said in fact about how the film is structured and how it operates and that it defies any expectations. For example, it’s not one of those exposition-heavy movies where you could lose the context to the rest of the movie if you miss a scene of dialogue. It’s very deliberate in its visual language, it’s the type of movie to shoot an actual scene where only a couple seconds will be used even if it looks expensive to film and I appreciate that. Show don’t tell in the most fun way possible. It keeps your attention, it’s easy to remember and it connects very nicely at the end. It’s never shallow in its stylistic choices, something that modern blockbusters seem to struggle with.
What is perhaps the biggest issue the movie faces is that it doesn’t quite know when to slow down and when to pick up again. As mentioned, the film starts considerably fast-paced and it doesn’t really slow down till the end of the second act where the train quite literally stops to a halt. It is this weird area between the second and final act where the movie just kills the momentum and decides to take it really easy and slow. There could have been a few minutes trimmed off and a couple jokes removed, the third act being nearly fifty minutes in a two-hour movie, it doesn’t feel normal and it isn’t, you can tell the movie would’ve flowed better had it been a bit shorter. To the movie’s credit, however, considering the cast it has, it gives each and every one of them a shining moment. Every introduction, the line delivery, jokes and physical comedy, it was utilized perfectly through each and every character. It’s a movie that knows exactly what it wants from its actors and it gets it. It also goes without saying that these characters are perfectly cast.
For someone who is thinking of retiring from acting soon, Brad Pitt is in top form here. His comedic timing, physicality and line delivery is great. He shows the world why he is as famous as he is, despite the movie lowkey underperforming and relying on lies about his ex-wife to stay relevant but that’s BESIDES the point. Anyways the true standouts are Aaron Taylor Johnson and Bryan Tyree Henry as Tangerine and Lemon. These two are insane together, I could watch a spin-off of just the two of them and be entertained for hours. Such great characters that are never reduced to just bad guys, they have actual personalities that contrast each other and they have a rather touching dynamic as brothers. It gets you to care for them twice, because they have so much charisma and because they’re not one-dimensional. I was devastated when they stupidly killed off Tangerine. Zazie Beets only had one scene but she used it perfectly, it was hilarious. Bad Bunny… he’s very good at making that one face over and over again. Joey King was fantastic, her own character’s acting was also good! Andrew Koji and Hiroyuki Sanada also brought a lot to the table with their familial dynamic giving the audience an easy group to root for at the end.
Overall, ‘Bullet Train’ is a movie I wouldn’t mind rewatching again, it’s honestly one of the most fun watches I’ve had this year and it’s the type of movie I can see myself recommending to people. It’s fun, the comedy works, the pacing is for the most part very fast, the cast is great and as I write this I am convincing myself to watch it in theatres before it leaves. If that doesn’t tell you to check it out, I don’t know what will.
‘Bullet Train’ is still showing in select cinemas now.