Life Through the Lens: The key to luck is acceptance

“When we are so quick to anger, we are slow to understand.”


There once was an old farmer. In a life full of ups and downs, highs and lows, the old farmer had maintained his steady devotion and hard work. It had always been the purifying process, not the final fruits, that daily drove him.

The old farmer, like he did every day, tended to his horse. “Love” would be a strange word for his attachment to this animal – more like “abundant-appreciation.” One day, though, he approached the gate to see that his horse had run away. The news spread across the countryside, and many neighbors came to visit the old farmer. They offered him sympathy and concern saying, “Oh my, this will surely be the end of you and your farm. Without a horse, your spindly little legs will wither and disintegrate. That is such bad luck.”

Without missing a beat, the horseless old farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The very next morning, as the dawn broke and the sun’s first rays descended on the misty meadowland, the old farmer awoke out of routine. With no horse to attend, he could have stolen a few more minutes of sleep, but a lifetime of early rising stood him up and forced his machinery to function forward. As the old farmer approached the empty pasture, his eyes were showered with surprise: not only had his horse returned but it had brought two other wild horses along with it. The neighbors rushed over, potluck in hand, to celebrate the return of the prodigal pony and its pals. “You must be overjoyed, old farmer! What good luck,” they said.

Without missing a beat, the horse-full old farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The very next day, the old farmer was back to business. While he and his horse were hard at work, the old farmer’s son tasked himself with the job of “wild horse tamer.” Not an easy task, mind you. As the sweat poured down his brow, the old farmer heard an unfamiliar sound. He rushed to its origin to find his son, mangled and shattered, cradling a now broken leg. Like clockwork, here come the neighbors, “Old farmer, you have found yourself in the thick of drama once again. Your poor son, your pride and glory, destroyed so. Oh, such bad luck.”

Without missing a beat, the patient old farmer replied, “Maybe.”

The next day begins with a murmur around the village: the military is sending officials to area households. With war imminent, a draft is being decreed. The old farmer opens his door to stern officers, three in a row. As they enter his humble hovel, their stern seriousness sucks the air from the room. “Documents show you have a young, able-bodied son, sir. Please take us to him.” In one single glance, the officers see the son, turn on their heels, and leave. “The military doesn’t need hobbling soldiers,” they declare as they shut the door. The neighbors, who must have been watching from the bushes, storm the cottage. “Old farmer! Do you know how fortunate you are? Your son just escaped death. This is monumental, good luck.”

Without missing a beat, the unphased old farmer replied, “Maybe.”

Bad luck. One assignment after another, and all he has to show for it is bad luck. As he calls his handler to receive information about this new mission, he is given the code name Ladybug. Great. More bad luck.

Ladybug (Brad Pitt) has gone through a personal catharsis: instead of labeling things “good” and “bad,” he is bound and determined to count it all as fate. If fate is in control, best to just go with the flow.

Today’s task: board the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, locate the briefcase with a sticker on the handle, and exit the train with the case in hand. That sounds comically easy, except Ladybug is unaware that the train is full of notorious figures doing nefarious acts. Fate has something else in store for good ole’ Ladybug.

Also on board: a vindictive Prince (Joey King) looking to do whatever it takes to get where she deserves to be, two vicious hitmen named Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) carrying out a task for the nation’s most violent crime lord, a heartless assassin known as The Hornet (Zazie Beetz), a desperate and grieving father named Kimura (Andrew Koji), and a vicious widower Wolf (Bad Bunny) seeking revenge for his fallen bride.

Although the briefcase was just sitting there, getting it off the train proves to be something of a challenge. Every car holds a new kind of danger for Ladybug. If fate is the conductor, best to just go with the flow.

Action movies are a tough sell for me. I seem unable to budge from my stance that art must be creative, not just entertaining. I am all for a joyride, but I want some originality along the way. I was eager for Bullet Train’s arrival (because Brad Pitt is my favorite) but wary (because the action genre is one of my least favorite). With the ride now taken and complete, I can safely say I enjoyed my trip thoroughly.

Director David Leitch encourages and supplies heaps of vision and creativity. The movie is hilarious, quick, purposeful, interesting, and imaginative. It inhabits the genre but refuses to stay predictable and mundane; it consistently breaks free and soars above the typical.

The script by Zak Olkewicz is witty and daring. The comedy was surprising and genuine. The plot’s tangles were fun and fruitful. The cinematography by Jonathan Sela is rich and vitalizing.

The movie’s acting was a real treat: each character introduced brought energy and potential. Brad Pitt was free to sharpen his impressive physical timing and his unmistakable comedic timing. He has charisma unmatched in Hollywood! Joey King was menacing and merciless. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry were a wonderful duo, each playing off the other’s strengths. The bit with Thomas the Tank Engine was priceless. Zazie Beetz continues her streak of artwork with style. Andrew Koji and Hiroyuki Sanada (as The Elder) bring wonderful pathos to the pandemonium. From top to bottom, the cast brings the eccentricity and electricity to life.

It may not change my life and stir my soul, but it certainly gave me an action movie worthy of the cost of admission.


REPORT CARD: “Bullet Train.”

Grade: A-.

Comment: Action done with flair and fun


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