Ryan Liddiard’s review published on Letterboxd:
David Leitch’s latest, Bullet Train, rolls into theatres this week and while it’s not the smooth maglev’d ride its double entendre of a title would suggest, it’s certainly an entertaining one. Starring Brad Pitt, whose week promoting the film has been one long parade of Fruity Pebbles-inspired linen-blend suits and skirts, Bullet Train is packed with about as much colour and energy as a bowl of the Post cereal.
Admittedly, I was pretty lethargic heading into this one—in a few days I’m heading to England for a month so not only have I been packing for that, but I’ve also been preparing for what life without a North American release schedule will look like (thankfully August is pretty quiet in that regard). Compounding that, however, was the uninspiring trailer I’d sat through nearly a dozen times, and the hopeless poster, which is not only an insult to graphic designers everywhere but cause to go and stare at the sun for five hours, too. Thankfully, my local theatre put on an early access screening—on Cineplex Tuesday of all days—so I just couldn’t say “no” to a bargain.
Unsurprisingly, my energy levels rose almost from the get-go. Bullet Train takes no time at all to get you up to speed, and it maintains that speed throughout. It’s a frenetic and fast-paced journey, jumping from carriage to carriage (or subplot to subplot) with very little elegance. At times it’s as if ADHD itself had made a movie. Nevertheless, I found it to be wholly unique and refreshing, and that alone was more than enough to keep me engaged from start to finish.
Jokes about fashion choices aside, Pitt is the heart and soul of the film. There’s a magnetism to him; his screen time brought about the most laughs from both myself and the audience. That said, his schtick did get a little long in the tooth by the film’s end. The rest of the cast is all pretty good, but the standouts would be Joey King and Aaron Taylor-Johnson who both nailed the respective tones of their characters. I’ll also whet the appetite of anyone reading this by saying there are some tasty cameos, and I’ll leave it at that.
The ride, of course, is not without its bumps. The dialogue, though well-written, is sometimes unintelligible (particularly Lemon’s, but I wasn’t sure if it was the accent or the mixing). The focus pulling is awful, with unnecessary blur everywhere. This ties into a greater issue—the shooting style—which doesn’t accommodate the great fight sequences and stunt work very well at all. Also, there’s a moment towards the end where the Sun drowns out a character’s face during a crucial speech in the film, and it was such a freaking piss-off; honestly, how the hell did that slip through editing?
Lastly, be forewarned: A great deal of suspension is required of the viewer to overcome some of the Mount Fuji-sized plot holes, asinine motives, and bungled passages. My advice: Just get on and enjoy the ride!
Bullet Train continues a streak of solid directorial efforts by David Leitch. It’s entertaining and has all you could want from a film of its sort. Was going to give it a 3/5 but I’m feeling generous today.