Ladybug (Brad Pitt), named after a harbinger of good luck and transformation, looks relaxed as he strolls down a busy street in a Japanese city. And while he’s dressed like he’s on his way to a L.L. Bean fashion show, in a few moments, he’s opening a travel storage locker and taking items from a past James Bond or Mission Impossible set for his next mission.
Pitt and his contemporary male action figures like Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves, and Tom Cruise continue to excite crowds. Each actor has found a niche in the action movie genre and woos audiences with his charm, humor, and boyish bespoke. This film is Pitt’s next installment in the larger-than-life adventure oeuvre.
We discover that Ladybug is on a mission to retrieve a briefcase with unknown contents. Because he recently discovered the peace of Zen, he leaves the pistol provided for him in the storage locker. His mission sounds simple, but it is to take place on a high-speed bullet train where everyone is captive until the next stop. Even Ladybug knows it can’t be that easy and, as expected, discovers that the train is filled with characters bent on revenge, members of crime organizations, and those who murder, steal, lie, and blow things up. There’s even a venomous snake crawling underfoot. Akin to Charlie’s Angels, Ladybug is guided digitally by his handler, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock). I wonder if we’ll get to see her before the final credits.
On the train, it becomes increasingly apparent that we’ve entered a dreamscape created by the collective minds of Monty Python, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, and Stanley Kubrick. In this virtual world, we laugh at violence, wait for punchlines, root for our heroes, and experience larger-than-life events that can only occur in fantasies.
Developing the Zen theme, Ladybug continually repeats phrases about peace and understanding as he masterfully dominates those who defy him with whatever weapon he finds. Hand-to-combat experts, with their swords and deft moves, play their roles as effective mayhem makers, and even the train has a few tricks.
Key characters include the lovely The Prince (Joey King), who creates mayhem, eliminates opponents and sets explosives. When confronted, she adorably cries with tears on cue and easily manipulates silly bad guys who respond to her with dim-witted, patronizing, and protective posturing. Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are brothers and form the delightfully evil hit-man team charged with protecting the wayward son (Logan Lerman) of a crime boss called White Death (Michael Shannon) and collecting for Mr. Death, the elusive briefcase filled with $10 million dollars in cash and gold.
Bullet Train is exciting, fun, funny, and a feast to the imagination and eyes. As its special effects and absurdity support the comedy, both the train and time zoom by. Ladybug’s musings and koan-based wisecracks remind us of Pitt’s versatility and abilities. The sedate and polite Japanese staff and travelers on the train provide a dramatic contrast to the pandemonium that keeps missing them. When chaos momentarily meets train staff, courtesy shushes and smiles freeze the action for a few moments until they’re in the clear.
Playing in theaters.
Runtime 126 minutes
Directed by David Leitch
Screenplay by Zak Olkewicz
Based on the book by Kotaro Isaka
Produced by Kelly McCormick, David Leitch Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree, Henry Andrew, Koji Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bulloch, and Benito A Martínez Ocasio