The Girl On The Train has a cast worth catching a ride for, but its frustrating filmmaking is better left at the station.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
From the window of the train she catches to and from New York every day, Rachel (Emily Blunt) – a bitter, self-destructive alcoholic – avoids looking at her visible old home, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) still lives happily with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their newborn child. Instead she focuses her attention on their neighbours Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), an attractive young couple she fantasises about and projects the perfect marriage she desperately wishes she still had. One day everything changes when Rachel witnesses Megan having an affair, not long before Megan is reported missing. An entangled web connecting everyone is uncovered, and Rachel begins to question her own involvement in the disappearance.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, since everyone has been so premature to make the comparison –Gone Girl this is not. Similar themes of infidelity, betrayal and violence within marital ties drew The Girl on the Train an immediate relation to David Fincher’s 2014 hit murder mystery; a success story the producers were no doubt hoping to recreate when the rights to adapt Paula Hawkins’ debut novel were acquired. It all seemed rather promising, but disappointingly Tate Taylor’s (The Help, Get on Up) flat thriller packs a few too many problems on board that not only prevent it from touching GG’s irreverent finesse, but threaten to derail it completely.
First and foremost, it becomes clear early on that the diary-entry format of Hawkins’ book simply does not translate well to the silver screen; at least not without some artistic liberties that Taylor and co. have failed to capitalise on. On page there’s plenty of room to breathe and time to get to know these women and the men in their lives, but here we’re introduced to all six major players in a short space of time, challenging non-readers to keep up with the multitude of connections between each. There’s a bit too much content for too little a running time, forcing it to wind up very talky and expository, and intermittent flashbacks only further confuse an already convoluted story. This at least means there’s no opportunity for boredom – close attention is necessary to a near-exhausting level.
After an overstuffed setup, The Girl on the Train settles more comfortably into its middle stretch and becomes intriguing, as red herrings are thrown about and the mystery becomes a true curiosity. Tragically though, the answer becomes disappointingly obvious before the big twist is revealed, and it can’t help but feel unsatisfying and a little too convenient.
Thankfully, a quality cast keep this train on the tracks, even if they aren’t really given the characterisation they deserve. Emily Blunt is the obvious standout; even if she is perhaps a bit too pretty to play the detrimental Rachel, she’s sympathetic and gutsy enough to root for, for the most part. But the rest match her in their well suited roles; especially recent breakouts Rebecca Ferguson, the scornful new wife, and Haley Bennett, whose interesting backstory and fate is sadly undercut by the lack of impact her big moments need.
It all sounds rather negative, but truth be told The Girl on the Train is not terrible. Though frustrating and easy to pick apart upon reflection, the film is a trashy good time that does genuinely keep you hooked until its reveal.
The Girl On The Train is available in Australian cinemas from October 6
Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films