Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Cert: 15A Running Time: 107 minutes
Release Date: 5th October 2016
Good thrillers are always about surprises, curve balls we never see coming that sweep us up in a moment where we forget we’re reading or watching a piece of fiction and are immersed in a moment that shatters our perception of what’s gone before. How disappointing then when we begin to see the cracks early on, when the mysterious is in fact the plain obvious and once deciphered leaves us to bear out the tedium until that which we’ve already guessed, is finally revealed. While readers of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller need not be troubled, knowing as they do the culprit, the same cannot be said for the uninitiated, delivering a lacklustre journey made only redeemable by its leading lady.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) commutes every day on the train to New York City, watching a couple (who seem to have no curtains), have breakfast, dinner and sex on her journey to and from work. When one day she spies the woman, Megan (Haley Bennett) with another man after which Megan disappears, Rachel injects herself into the investigation in an obsessive quest to find her. So far so good. But throw in that the gone girl of the piece is also the nanny to Rachel’s ex-husband (Theroux) and the woman Anna (Ferguson), he left her for and the plot begins to spin far too many webs to remain safely intact. Amidst flashbacks and viewpoints (we get Rachel’s, Anna’s and Megan’s) we are taken into the lives of a group of very unlikeable people and the tone goes from sinister to nasty as each character is unveiled to us.
Rachel herself is flawed. She is an alcoholic, swigging vodka from her water bottle on her commute, bitter from her divorce and scarred by her failure to conceive. All of the women are broken in some way and the depiction of motherhood as driving a woman to the point of madness is unsettling and disturbing to watch as none of the women paint it in even a faintly positive light. Blunt remains the best reason to give it your time and you can see why she would be enticed. She’s terrific and does bring a vulnerability but Rachel is the sort of person you’d rather cross the road to avoid than someone you’d like to help. As the plot threatens to strangle itself, any empathy we feel with her begins to drift away beyond our reach so that when required we can’t pull ourselves back into the story she began.
As a thriller, director Tate Taylor (The Help) sets the premise up well but the film is too self aware. It pushes the sexy button, then the dark button, the shocking one etc. like a vending machine dispensing what it thinks the consumer wants at that given moment. And they do probably want this, but by contrast where Gone Girl was dark and cleverly abstract, The Girl on The Train is heavy handed and pushes too hard leaving the ending when it comes, strangely lacking in tension and ferocity.
Fans of the book may enjoy or they may prefer the version they read on the page. The box office no doubt will tell the tale.