MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Bullet Train’ — Switch views and enjoy the ride!

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Ladybug (Brad Pitt) and Wolf (Bad Bunny) in a scene from “Bullet Train”. (Sony Pictures)

By IZUMI HASEGAWA

When I heard that Brad Pitt would star in a movie based on a Japanese novel, I’m sure many Japanese and Nikkei people were as excited as I was. I arrived at the cinema delighted to see how the film was adapted, especially in the current social climate regarding topics such as whitewashing and racial sensitivity, evoked by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Based on the novel “Maria Beetle” by Kotaro Kosaka, the film opens with a scene where the main character, Ladybug, played by Pitt, walks through the streets of Tokyo. The Japanese signs depicted on screen seemed more accurate, at least compared to previous Hollywood productions. I thought: “Surely this time…!” and raised my expectations for this film.

Hiroyuki Sanada plays The Elder in “Bullet Train”. (Sony Pictures)

However, as the film progressed, I realized that my expectations for an accurate portrayal couldn’t have been more wrong. Unfortunately, this work, like “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), was a fantasy film with a fictional “Japan” as its backdrop.

I can’t write much more to avoid spoilers, but on the one hand it’s weird that there’s a high-speed train that’s also a night train. On the other hand, it is impossible to see Mount Fuji from anywhere near Maibara Station. But then it dawned on me that even the action scenes in the movie were unrealistic. I wondered, “Isn’t the setting itself absurd and unrealistic in the first place?”

Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in a scene from “Bullet Train”. (Sony Pictures)

I realized that I should enjoy “Bullet Train” as if I was enjoying a roller coaster without worrying about the small parts that make up the ride. Not a second after making that decision, I began to see the charms of the film. I was able to fully enjoy the large-scale action that accelerates like a high-speed train as the finale approaches.

Joey King plays Prince in “Bullet Train”. (Sony Pictures)

By making the unrealistic realistic, the audience’s sense of the unrealistic is diminished, allowing them to be immersed in the worldview of this film, which is founded by one of the most respected action stars. from Japan, Hiroyuki Sanada. Sanada’s acting, tone and swordplay were truly outstanding. Veteran Sanada particularly shone among Western actors playing more playful and comedic roles, and rising star Andrew Koji seemed to have room to grow by comparison. Every time Sanada appeared on screen, he seemed to elevate the quality of the scene.

Ladybug thinks he’s a very unlucky guy, but from the perspective of a third party, the audience, he’s a transcendentally lucky guy. The same can be said for ourselves. Changing our perspective on things can make us happier. I recommend that you enjoy the ride that is “Bullet Train” by accepting that this movie isn’t set in Japan in the real world, but in a fantasy world.

“Bullet Train” is now available to watch via digital on-demand on all major platforms, as well as Bluray and DVD.

Translated by Hana Umemoto/Hollywood News Wire Inc.

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