The Girl on the Train review – an unexciting and obvious mystery thriller

by | 7 Oct 2016 | Film Reviews

‘A divorced woman becomes involved in a missing persons investigation.’

Adapted from Paula Hawkins novel, The Girl on the Train centres around Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee who becomes obsessed with a seemingly perfect couple she see from her train every day, played by Luke Evans and Haley Bennett. They also just so happen to live a few houses down from Rachel’s ex-husband and new wife, with whom they have a baby.

Devastated by her own marriage’s breakdown, Rachel feeds off the image of this supposedly happy couple until she witnesses the wife with another man in the house. Angered and drunk she gets off the train to confront her, only to black out and wake up bruised and bloodied in her own house. With the wife now missing along with her memory of what transpired, she sets out to discover what happened fearing she had something to do with it.

It’s a great premise for a mystery thriller and director Tate Taylor does an admiral job adapting the source material, but sadly struggles to turn it into a compelling film or get it to stand out amongst all the other neo noir movies we have out there. Additionally, for a whodunit story that lives on the reveal at the end, it’s pretty obvious and cliché. Taylor does attempt to hide this with a non-linear narrative structure and throws in a few red herrings but anyone with half a brain cell should be able to work it out. For a film that’s being marketed as this year’s Gone Girl, it really doesn’t live up to that expectation.

The Girl on the Train doesn’t do anything fresh or original, or give it really dynamic and interesting characters like Fincher’s film did, and if you go into this film with that expectation then of course it’s going to fail in comparison. If you don’t go in with that hype though there are aspects to the movie that do make it just about watchable.

One of those aspects is Blunt, who helps elevate this film significantly, and her performance as Rachel is very compelling. Even though Rachel’s is tragic and self-destructive character, Blunt is still skilful at infusing her with enough sympathy that you can’t help but feel for her.

Although there’s an ensemble of characters, the film really belongs to her and it’s through her eyes we experience this narrative unfold. She also pulls no punches when it comes to displaying Rachel’s struggle with alcohol and the toll it takes on her body; it’s a brutal and realistic portrayal. Technically, Taylor helps draw us into Rachel’s head by constantly having the camera close to her face, so as to show the isolation that comes with addiction, and also aided by blurred camera point-of-view shots that draw us in to her disillusioned state of mind and allow us to vicariously experience her desperation as she tries to piece together her memory.

After Blunt, Haley Bennett’s Megan, the missing wife, is the next stand out performance. She does an exceedingly good job in changing our perception of her as she transforms from an unlikeable, callous individual, to a more empathetic one as the story progresses; it’s another heart-breaking performance. Unfortunately, apart from those two, the rest of the cast is wasted and mostly there to serve the plot and create extra suspects for us, the audience, to guess which one is the culprit.

‘The Girl on the Train, is just an average thriller with Blunt’s performance by far the best thing it’s got going for it, and Bennett’s a close second.’

With an obvious revelation and mostly underwhelming characters, it won’t get under your skin the way Taylor is probably hoping, and apart from Blunt’s involvement, there’s no other reason to revisit this mediocre affair after you’ve watched it the first time.

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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