- Title:The Girl On The Train
- Director: Tate Taylor
The novel, as Judith has written, is a page turner, a compelling read. This film then, should be gripping. It, in theory, should have maintained this tension and compulsive plot. Instead, The Girl on the Train has become a bore − a super-serious thriller without the thrills.
The most obvious comparison to this film is Gone Girl (2014), David Fincher’s brilliant adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s suburban murder mystery. Sadly, this film does not match the quality of Gone Girl at all.
I was struck in the first half an hour by how heavy and dour this film is. Each scene is laboured and miserable, characters complain about their lives and very little happens. It is not for a long time that the central disappearance occurs.
This film has a Hitchcockian plot; Rachel, played by Emily Blunt, commutes to and from New York each day on the train where she observes the lives of the people whose houses are near the tracks, including her ex-husband. When her ex-husband’s nanny goes missing, Rachel herself may be implicated in the mystery.
I recently watched Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train in the cinema and was struck by the light touch and thrilling pace of it. Characters have light moments and dark moments. They are gripping, complex and compel you to keep watching. Strangers on a Train is a magnificent thriller and I would recommend it to anyone who feels short-changed by The Girl on the Train as, in contrast to this, it feels grindingly repetitive. A scene will open, someone will complain about their lives and by the end, without fail, they will be in tears. This makes the film such a drag, and pulls down many excellent performers along with it.
Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson are excellent actresses. Their performances in Sicario (2015) and Mission Impossible 5 (2015) are some of the most fun and exciting female characters of recent years.
In this film, however, both feel laboured and heavy, battling with boring material in an attempt to make deep and meaningful characters. In the end, both come across as cyphers, stereotypes of middle class women, trapped in their own separate worlds, enraptured by the men around them. If this film was more thrilling and fun, this type of characterisation might work. A savage critique of the American middle class is what makes Gone Girl so fun. This film wants to portray real life, and aim for realism but another side of it wants to make Gone Girl, the savage, darkly funny and vicious mystery.
A presence with the entertainment value of Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, or Kim Dickens would really have given The Girl on the Train another side, some more depth. People are naturally humorous, and a few amusing lines of dialogue or a dark sense of humour would have elevated things tenfold.
However, smaller roles seemed to feature actors who were really bringing something to the table. Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex-husband and Luke Evans as the husband of the missing woman were far more convincing than most others. However, their involvement was too small for them to shine.
Blunt’s performance frankly is an embarrassment. She wildly overacts in some scenes and in others she seems slightly sheepish to be a part of this film. I was very disappointed by her and I think she is indicative of a lot of the problems this film suffers from.
However, most of the blame must be placed at director Tate Taylor’s door. He is the worst possible choice for director. This film needed a provocative and uncompromising director, someone who would tell the story truthfully and intelligently but with a sense of fun. The film handles tough real life themes but this doesn’t mean that you can skimp on the mystery and thrills at the centre of it. Taylor directs with a soporific and laboured style, glossy but shallow and with no sense of pace. This film is boring and silly with so few decent performances you wonder why these people were cast in the first place.
Overall, this film is a disaster, a page-turner turned into a cinema-snoozer which fails miserably at its central goal: to thrill and intrigue. I guessed the ending within the first fifteen minutes and I was so desperate for my guess to not be the case that I ended up making up theories to allow the screenwriter and director some credit.
However, I was sadly correct and I walked out of the cinema thinking: “This would be the movie David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock would make if they were both stupid”.
Thank you for reading this very therapeutic review! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you want to see this film, just read the book instead. It’s obviously much better. On the other hand, watch Strangers on a Train – that’s how you do a train-based thriller.
I would just like to thank Judith for all her help and her agreeing to be a part of this collaboration! I hope we can work together in the near future.
All the best,
Patrick and Judith