Japan’s famous Shinkansen rail network gets its biggest exposure yet with the release of a new Hollywood blockbuster, Bullet Train.
This explosive action movie set almost entirely on the tituar mode of transport has a release date of August 5th, 2022. But it has already generated a huge amount of buzz from both Japanese and international film fans alike.
This is not only because it features an incredibly stylish depiction of Japan and Shinkansen travel, but because it stars the beloved Burapi (the nickname for Brad Pitt in Japanese). Pitt is a huge star in Japan and each of his movies are eagerly anticipated in the country.
The fact that the film is packed with other popular actors and is directed by the talented action specialist David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) has only added to the feverish anticipation.
To celebrate Bullet Trains’ release, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about this exciting new film. Read on for a breakdown of what to expect from the plot, its accuracy, and the differences between the fictional Shinkansen in the film and the real thing!
Table of Contents
What Bullet Train is based on and plot details
Bullet Train is based on the novel Maria Beetle by Japanese author Kotaro Isaka. Published in 2010, the novel is the satirical story of 5 highly trained assassins who have been assigned the same target on a bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Morioka in Iwate Prefecture.
The plot has been tweaked slightly for the silver screen, as the assassins are now traveling on a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka. However, it appears that much of the other plot elements from the book remain.
Brad Pitt plays Ladybug, a hitman with bad luck: he always causes death even when he doesn’t mean to. He wants to retire, but is pulled back into the game for one last job by his handler Maria Beetle.
His mission is to retrieve a briefcase from the bullet train of the film’s title. But this simple task becomes complicated when he realizes there are several other assassins on board who want the case, leading to bloody mayhem in a fight to the death.
Who’s in the cast?
The film-makers of Bullet Train are not simply resting on the star power of Burapi to draw in audiences: they’ve also assembled an impressive supporting cast.
Perhaps the most notable is Sandra Bullock as the mysterious Maria Beetle. Although the role was originally meant for Lady Gaga, she had to drop out following scheduling conflicts. This led to Bullock signing on to reunite with Pitt after their winning collaboration in The Lost City.
To play the other deadly assassins on board the train, Leitch has made some intriguing choices, including
- Aaron Taylor Johnson (Kick-Ass)
- Andrew Koji (Snake Eyes)
- Brian Tyree Henry (Eternals)
- Joey King (The Kissing Booth)
- Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2)
The rest of the cast is equally full of well-known performers such as
- Michael Shannon (Knives Out)
- Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson)
- Hiroyuki Sanada (Westworld)
- Karen Fukuhara (The Boys)
Additionally, fans of rapper Bad Bunny will be pleased to see him continue his foray into acting after a small role in F9: The Fast Saga. In Bullet Train, he’s set to play Wolf, a formidable Mexican assassin with a personal vendetta against Ladybug.
Check out the film’s poster for a first look at how some of the characters will appear in the film:
Bullet Train trailer
The trailers released for the film have been incredibly well-received. They’ve generated particular praise for Pitt’s comedic timing, flashy visuals, brutal action, and the cool soundtrack (which features a Japanese version of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive).
Fans are also very intrigued by the depiction of the young British woman Prince (the character played by Joey King) and are eager to see how her polite personality fits with her job as an assassin.
Original author Isaka has also been impressed by the trailers, saying, “I was excited by the gorgeous actors and their energetic, violent scenes! I hope it will be a fun movie”.
Check out the full trailer below!
Bullet trains: fact vs. fiction
If you’ve seen the Bullet Train trailer, you’ll likely recognize the shot of the Shinkansen speeding through the Japanese countryside and the iconic Mt Fuji.
But it might surprise you to know that, aside from some exterior shots of Tokyo, much of the filming locations for the movie are actually in California.
There are also some small tell-tale details in the trailer that differ from real life:
- Shinkansen don’t tend to have “Quiet Cars” but most carriages are usually quiet anyways
- The stewardess outfits worn by Fukuhara and Beetz share some similarities with the real thing but are stylized
- While Japanese train stations do tend to have lockers available, they are not directly on the platform as depicted
The train used for the movie, the “Nippon Speed line” is fictional, although it bears some similarities to the real Shinkansen on the line between Tokyo and Kyoto. The interiors for the train are completely artificial and were constructed in the Sony Pictures Studios in the USA.
Despite these differences, though, audiences are still excited to see this “wild, non-stop thrill ride through modern-day Japan”. With a budget of over $80 million, Bullet Train is sure to become one of the biggest hits of the year and inspire fans to travel around Japan on the real Shinkansen for years to come.
Cover image credits by Sony