UK Release Date: 5th October 2016
Runtime: 112 minutes
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, Édgar Ramírez, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow
Synopsis: An alcoholic woman who watches a perfect suburban couple from her daily commuter train is shocked when she witnesses something that could be a crucial piece of information in a disappearance.
Much like the novel that became David Fincher‘s seductively dark Gone Girl a few years ago, the Paula Hawkins book The Girl on the Train was a must-read page turner that was a staple of beaches and railway carriages all over the world. The action has been relocated from London to the New York suburbs for Tate Taylor’s film adaptation, which utterly fails in its attempt to conjure up a vivid tapestry of twists and turns. It’s a tedious slog that very rarely flickers into life and ultimately turns out to be the worst kind of trash – it has no idea just how trashy it is.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), having recently divorced husband Tom (Justin Theroux), becomes obsessed with spying on him and new partner Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) from the commuter train that passes their house. The same journey also takes her past attractive suburban couple Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), who seem to have a penchant for conspicuously humping next to open windows. When Megan goes missing, Rachel tells police officer Riley (Allison Janney) that she may have information about her disappearance, which also leads to her being deemed a suspect.
The Girl on the Train really suffers from how clearly it evokes Gone Girl. Haley Bennett’s character is written essentially as a karaoke version of what Rosamund Pike did in that movie, right down to several shots that look almost as if they have been directly lifted from Fincher’s film. It’s fair to say that this film has none of the meticulous grace that characterised Fincher’s film, with a cluttered structure and stilted, melodramatic dialogue. It’s a mess of a film that has no control over its own narrative momentum and, as such, there’s very little intrigue to the mystery, even if director Tate Taylor is able to muster up some neatly glossy visuals.
Emily Blunt gives a committed central performance, with puffy eyes and constantly slurred speech. In a better movie, this could’ve been a truly impressive turn but, in The Girl on the Train, Blunt is constantly grappling with a script that is packed with over-written platitudes and is surrounded by preposterous plotting. It’s Bennett whose character initially seems the most compelling, but she is never deepened beyond the off-kilter persona that Gone Girl so thoroughly tore apart. Next to her, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans are cast as empty, vacuous men with literally nothing behind their eyes.
There is a flicker of invention to The Girl on the Train as it moves into its third act, but this is soon diminished by the film’s desire to be as nasty and grim as humanly possible. By the time the story unravels and the movie’s mystery is solved, any possible interest has been drowned in blood and fragments of skull. Gone Girl went to dark places, but it felt as if it was under control and in character, whereas here it feels like a desperate and unwarranted attempt to shock.
Given the pulpy thriller that The Girl on the Train could’ve been, it’s incredibly disappointing how much of a tedious mess this film ultimately becomes. It’s a movie that lets down its characters and doesn’t do justice to the potential thrills that its concept hinted towards. If you’ll indulge me in a few of the train metaphors I’ve been steadfastly avoiding thus far, The Girl on the Train is a film that veers wildly off the rails and runs out of steam before never arriving at the station. Maybe there was a signal failure?
Pop or Poop?
On the surface, The Girl on the Train looked to be a prime candidate for the next bestselling mystery thriller to make the transition to the big screen. Unfortunately, the film is a trashy, sleazy mess that wastes solid performances with a disturbingly unpolished script and a mean streak that it never justified with any sense that any of what is happening actually matters.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.