Bullet Train: How Super Tight Spaces Contributed To The Badass Fight Scenes Of The New Action Movie

While certainly more spacious than airplanes, the average train isn’t exactly a vehicle that offers a whole lot of room for passengers. Benches and seats are arranged to maximize the number of people who can ride at a time, and extras like tables don’t exactly help. Because of this, one might perhaps not consider it an ideal setting for a big action movie featuring characters beating the ever-loving hell out of one another, but the stars of David Leitch’s Bullet Train would disagree, as they argue that the limited space is a big part of what enhances the fun of the film.

As captured in the video at the top of this article, I interviewed Bullet Train stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Brad Pitt late last month during the virtual press day for the new movie, and one question I asked everyone was about performing the crazy action the story demanded in confined spaces. Taylor-Johnson explained that he feels that not having a lot of room to work in was an asset for the work, as limitations in the environment demanded creative solutions. Said the actor,

I think that kind of adds, actually. I like when there's boundaries and limitations, because then you use the environment and around you, and I think that's what we did. And I think David Leitch wanted us to lean into that, I think, and then it just adds layers.

The movie is based on the book Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka, and its main ensemble are all killers, hit men, and assassins who board a bullet train in Tokyo heading to Kyoto. Each of the characters have their own motives and goals for being on the high speed rail, and quite often intersections lead to violent conflict and confrontation.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson pointed at an example in Bullet Train featuring Brad Pitt and Brian Tyree Henry going toe-to-toe in the titular transport’s quiet car, and he noted that the limitations enhanced both the action and the comedy:

I mean, these two just had such an incredible fight sequence in a contained space against each other around the table, but in the quiet car. And then that adds another element, so they've gotta keep everything quiet. That comedy with the action is such a good balance.

Riffing on his co-star, Brian Tyree Henry noted that an interesting chemistry came as a result of the space being limited and the fact that Brad Pitt apparently isn’t a person who deals with limitations. He said, laughing,

When you are able to work within boundaries and then work with someone who like Brad [Pitt], who doesn't respect any boundaries, it creates this whole kind of amazing visual element, like a kamikaze, you know what I'm saying? You really try to figure out how to work within the confines of fighting on a train and killing somebody with a tray table and beating someone's ass with an armrest.

Playing The Elder, a character who makes a big entrance into the movie late in the second act, Hiroyuki Sanada didn’t spend as much time on the bullet train as his co-stars, but he still definitely got to have his own experience with the cramped quarters, and was impressed by director David Leitch’s work in the space. Said Sanada,

Sometimes [it’s] difficult because so narrow, and there was so many people in the train, but for me, it was fun and easy to corroborate with the stunt guys and coordinator. And then especially director David [Leitch] knows about action very well, so [it’s] easy to corroborate and then create the interesting unique choreography together easily. I had so much fun every day on set.

The sentiment regarding working with David Leitch was something that Brian Tyree Henry also echoed. He explained that there were times on set when he wasn’t sure how certain scenes would actually work, but the fact that they do is a testament to the director’s talent:

It turns out to be one of the most fun, crazy theme parks you've ever been a part of. You're like, 'How is the camera gonna get through down this aisle? How are we gonna hide in this toilet?' It's all, it's all kinds of fun things, and that's just a testimony to David Leitch and his imagination. He's brilliant.

Bullet Train, featuring a brilliant cast including Joe King, Andrew Koji, Sandra Bullock, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Masi Oka, Karen Fukuhara and more in addition to Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Brad Pitt, arrives in theaters this Friday. Tickets are on sale now, and if you’re a fan of the movie’s stars, you should most definitely check out our Upcoming Brad Pitt and Upcoming Brian Tyree Henry guides.

To learn about all of the other films set to hit theaters and streaming it what remains of the year, our 2022 Movie Release Calendar has the information you’re looking for.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.