Bullet Train (the movie) vs #Audiobook #BulletTrain by Kōtarō Isaka – #crimethriller

Bullet Train (the Movie)_ vs #Audiobook

Intro

Are you up for a frenetically paced story located on a Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan? This is an audiobook (kindle, paperback, hardback) turned into a “major motion picture” from Sony Pictures that stars none other than Brad Pitt—like you’ve probably never seen or imagined Bradley—and Sandra Bullock in a cameo.

The Movie

Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug. The poor man has a history of being unlucky—seriously unlucky—which is interesting as he’s an accomplished assassin coming off the last gig that went sideways on several levels (how did he survive?). Now he’s ready to check in with Maria who is sending him out on a simple mission. Steal a briefcase from a train. You know, that really fast one in Japan? Unfortunately, there is more than one assassin on the same train—others interested in the same briefcase—and with somewhat of an alarming connection. But once he has the briefcase, can he then get safely off the train?

Maybe not.

My Thoughts

Leave it to Hollywood to make an admittedly fast-paced nail-biting satire into an explosively violent but often farcical blockbuster. Brad Pitt (Nanao nee Ladybug) plays it to the hilt and the movie is worth the price of admission to watch the man work. He can produce many a LOL moment with just a look. And he comes off as hapless and innocent (if an assassin can be innocent) when the bodies begin to pile up around him.

Brad Pitt - author
Photo attribution: IMDb

The characters are priceless—most, carefully crafted after their creative author’s original molding of them. I mean—come on—Tangerine and Lemon? And again, the two are perfect, playing off each other, intellectually, in numerous scenes. Joey King - actorAnd The Prince…ah, The Prince, a female (not the high school male sadistically imagined by the author, but a cruel, petite woman). Kimura, poor, sad Kimura who followed in his father’s footsteps driven to save his son now languishing in a hospital in a coma.

Five assassins all with horrific backstories—brought to the fore by flashbacks of each. Can one be more brutal than the other? Amid fiery crash scenes, vicious fight scenes, swords, knives, and blood, there are definitely some gory scenes.

With the exception of The Prince, a viewer might be tempted to begin rooting for a particular character to make it through the chaos to fight again elsewhere. Eventually, you might be so caught up in the non-stop action that you’ve forgotten the mission goal—what was it again?

4 stars 4 stars

Audiobook (Blurb)

A dark, satirical thriller by the best-selling Japanese author, following the perilous train ride of five highly motivated assassins – soon to be a major film from Sony

Nanao, nicknamed Ladybug – the self-proclaimed “unluckiest assassin in the world” – boards a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka with one simple task: Grab a suitcase and get off at the next stop. Unbeknownst to him, the deadly duo Tangerine and Lemon are also after the very same suitcase – and they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard. Satoshi, “the Prince”, with the looks of an innocent schoolboy and the mind of a viciously cunning psychopath, is also in the mix and has history with some of the others. Risk fuels him as does a good philosophical debate – like, is killing really wrong? Chasing the Prince is another assassin with a score to settle for the time the Prince casually pushed a young boy off of a roof, leaving him comatose. When the five assassins discover they are all on the same train, they realize their missions are not as unrelated as they first appear. 

A massive best seller in Japan, Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller that fizzes with an incredible energy and surprising humor as its complex net of double-crosses and twists unwind. Award-winning author Kotaro Isaka takes listeners on a tension-packed journey as the bullet train hurtles toward its final destination. Who will make it off the train alive – and what awaits them at the last stop?

The Kindle-Paperback book was given the Editors’ pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

My Thoughts

The audiobook’s main character would seem to be The Prince, as it is his voice, his thoughts, his objectives that drives the plot. The characters are introduced and gradually enfolded into the storyline that revolves in and around a briefcase full of money. The chapters begin with Kimura and proceed to switch between The Prince and Nanao, as well as Tangerine and Lemon.

Bullet Train by Kōtarō IsakaIt’s amazing the philosophical depth to which the Prince advances his thoughts, proposing a subject and then dissecting in ways never before contemplated. You might be examining the meaning of life one minute and the frivolity of it the next. The prince is young—a total psychopathic narcissist—who views himself clearly superior to those of the lives he currently controls like a master with a marionette.

The suitcase becomes the baton stolen, hidden, found, and then passed to the next hideous villain. There are support characters who come and go, the Wolf for instance, but my very favorite was Kimura’s mother and father. Sweetness in the middle of madness.

The fate of several of the main characters is handled very differently in the audiobook than was in the movie, some of which I was sorry about, but kept rooting for Nanao—much the underdog—but not so unlucky anymore. The conclusion is satisfying, though somewhat deflating after all the turmoil (and casualties) and it’s even possible the reader can understand why this is a necessary evil.

5 stars 5 stars

The Author

Kōtarō Isaka - author
Author photo from Goodreads

Kotaro Isaka(伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.
In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Book Details

Genre: Crime Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
ASIN: B0946D2BGX
Listening Length: 13 hrs 38 mins
Narrator: Pun Bandhu
Audible Release: August 3, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Bullet Train [Amazon]

Overall Impression

The Movie

Five assassins on the bullet train traveling at 200 mph, somewhat connected with several different motives. What could go wrong? All are at odds. Amazing choice of actors with their assigned parts totally selling it. They were a hoot. The action is non-stop. Tons of special effects and some shocking stunts. Flash bang in technicolor and sound.

Absolutely engaging, totally entertaining. Definitely outside the realm of credibility. And fun.

Did I mention fun? Still, with all that, it lacked the psychological nuances, much of the philosophical exchanges with The Prince. Some of those arguments had the ability to get you twisting and turning in the wind and sorry (not sorry) but I thought the part of The Prince was miscast—the only one. I missed some of those theoretical conversations and hated the ending.

The Audiobook

It takes a few minutes to get into the writing style and prose of the well-narrated audiobook. Also, there may be sufficient characters for some to get you grabbing an Excel spreadsheet, but the storyline begins to get the reader entrenched into a wildly unique plot and unusual location. The conversations with The Prince are mesmerizing. Difficult to get into that alien head to grasp the salient points which then become profound. Such a variety feast of characters.

It’s unusual and mysteriously engaging. Looking for something different? Go no further.

Add to Goodreads

Conclusion

The movie is riotously entertaining—all action and character-driven. No doubt you’d enjoy if this is your thing—lots of sights and sounds. Pitt is great. And Sandra Bullock? (Phoned it in.) It’s a fast two hours.

The audiobook’s twists and turns have your head swimming, trying to keep up. It’s deliciously aggravating while intoxicating. It goes dark quickly. It’s also engaging and entertaining and the characterizations alone beat the movie version even given the performances these individuals turn in. Unusual setting, unique well plotted, and evenly paced, I have to go with the audiobook (author’s original work) to take this one.

I’d recommend either as entertaining but if you are looking for a stimulating and unique novel—look for the book.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

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Author: Rosepoint Publishing

I am the granddaughter of Patrick John "Stanley McShane" Rose whose books including "Cocos Island Treasure" I've recently published. My time is now spent in reading, reviewing, and writing bookish articles. I'm looking forward to sharing this social media odyssey with you!

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