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Sandbox / The Bullet Train

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On an otherwise normal day, Japan National Railways recieves a threat: two bombs will explode on a pair of trains; one on a Hokkaido freight train and the other on the Hikari 109 bullet train (or shinkansen) from Tokyo to Hakata. When the first train mysteriously explodes, the company alerts the driver, Aoki (Sonny Chiba), who's running a normal train run with 1,500 passengers on board. But to make matters worse, there's one more caveat to the bomber's treat: the train will explode if it slows down to 80 mph.

And thus begins an epic high-stakes manhunt as the Tokyo MPD try to hunt down the bomber while Okita and the train's crew try to keep a lid on the situation, which is easier said than done with 1,500 passengers wondering why they aren't stopping. Elsewhere, the bomber, ex-businessman Testuo Okita (Ken Takakura) along with his co-conspirators Masaru Koga and Hiroshi Oshiro are planning on getting a $5,000,000 ransom from their threats as they soon become wanted all over Tokyo.

If the plot sounds familiar, it should; the film was indeed the inspiration for Speed. It was even released in France and the US the following year, albeit in highly truncated form.


This film contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A good chunk of the conspirator's screentime is spent exploring their tragic backstories, and in partuclar Okita's.
  • Allmighty Janitor: Played with, while the train conductors have a hard time keeping the passengers under control, they aren't afraid to try to defuse the bomb on several occasions. They succeed.
  • Crying Wolf: A variation. The JNR officials elect to continue broadcasting their appeal to Okita to help defuse the bomb in order to lure him out. The official who declared the message to the press, Kuromochi, does not approve of this in the slightest, and promptly hands in his resignation. That being said, it does manage to work.
  • Epic Movie: Runs for a grand total of 152 minutes in its uncut form, and it's one of the longest action movies ever made.
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  • Hostage Situation: One of the biggest ever put to celluloid as Okita's plot puts 1,500 souls onboard the Hikari at risk with his plot.
  • Imagine Spot: At one point Aoki imagines what would happen if he stopped the train at once. It's not a pretty picture to say the least.
  • Not My Lucky Day: For just about the entire cast. Not only do the bombers fail to get their ransom on multiple occasions, the police don't even get to catch them when the opportunity presents itself. To say nothing of the passengers and the people manning the Shinkansen control center...
  • Tragic Villain: Okita is nowhere near as psychotic or bloodthirsty in comparison to Howard Payne. He's just a quiet, broken man who lost his business and was separated from his family, and sees the entire bomb plot as a way to get even.
  • True Companions: While they are an extremely usual mix of conspirators (Okita is a peniless businessman, Koga is a dedicated student radical, and Oshiro is an ex-employee of Okita's) the three bombers get along quite well and are inrcredibly loyal to each other. This is best shown when Koga blows himself up in order to allow Okita to escape from the police.

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