David Leitch and Brad Pitt have teamed up once again for this epically dark and comedic thriller, confined within the metal walls of Japan’s Bullet Train. Based on Kôtarô Isaka’s novel of the same name, Brad Pitt plays Ladybug, a “snatch and grab” guy whose time in therapy has him working on a more positive outlook – for a man who only wants peace, however, he has the uncanny ability always to find violence. While hunting for a briefcase, he comes across a slate of hilarious and dangerous characters, such as Lemon and Tangerine (Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the Prince (Joey King), the Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), and the White Devil (Michael Shannon).

The narrative is perfectly constructed and expertly paced so that each action has consequences and a pay-off – hats off to screenwriter Zak Olkewicz. Between the characters’ complicated backstories and the journey of a Fuji water bottle, Bullet Train will have you on the edge of your seat and gasping with delight for its entire runtime.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

It is incredibly violent. There is no shying away from the gushing blood and the impossibly graphic deaths, but these moments are counterbalanced against the humour and the absurdity of events to create a well-rounded viewing experience. You will laugh just as much as recoil in shock. The cinematography moves effectively between slow-motion tracking shots and real-time action, so that there’s never time to predict what might happen next, but plenty of time to appreciate the intricate choreography.

The use of character introduction cards such as ‘the Father’ or ‘the Elder’ creates the feeling of a video game, highlighting their archetypes for the story to then detangle and humanise the characters. Leitch also dedicates time for flashbacks and quick explanations for characters and events that don’t seem relevant in the moment, but prove essential in the long term. This also functions to flesh out the many characters within a short space of time, without dragging the viewer away from the action.

Each of the A-list talents plays their role to perfection. Lemon and Tangerine’s quick-witted arguments, as well as the former’s Thomas the Tank Engine obsession, make for some of the film’s best moments. King switches easily from psychopath to scared child in the flick of a switch, while Pitt is essentially flawless in his portrayal of the unlucky former assassin who’s always one step behind. Lastly, Sanada and Andrew Koji are pitch-perfect in carrying the film’s emotional weight.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Also worth a mention is the amazing Bullet Train soundtrack. Japanese-language covers of popular 80s songs like ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees are a fantastic way to set the scene and establish the film’s mood. Dominic Lewis uses the music expertly to enhance the mood of each scene, whether violent or funny or heartfelt, while keeping the audience fully immersed.

Bullet Train is a top contender for one of the better blockbusters of the year. Well written and well structured, dramatic, violent, and heartfelt – this is a film that holds a lot within a two-hour stretch and which will undoubtedly prove endlessly rewatchable.

Bullet Train is out in cinemas now.