There is nothing a studio loves more than dropping a “based on the international bestseller” line – or some similar statement- for the trailer to their latest Thriller. In one concise line you pique the interest of an existing audience who have read said bestseller and also attain the attention of a newcoming cinemagoer who now immediately expects some kind of pedigree to this latest film. However we discerning fans of film know better than to just go by source material hype. After all for every literary to film cracker like Gone Girl and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (or the entire Swedish trilogy for that matter), there is a Fifty Shades of Grey or The Da Vinci Code. So it is now the turn of Paula Hawkins’ psychological 2015 Thriller The Girl On The Train to hit the big screen but how does it fare (the pun train keeps on a’ rolling)?
This film sees the lonely and suffering Rachel (Emily Blunt) taking her daily train ride. Struggling with alcoholism, after the breakdown of her marriage, Rachel takes the same journey daily, observing the lives of people through her carriage window and living vicariously through the happiness of one particular couple that lives in her old neighborhood. However one day she sees the woman of this house in the embrace of another man and soon her obsession with the happiness of this household, leads her on a journey that is rife with mystery, danger and a deadly outcome. The influence of Gone Girl in both the marketing and the aesthetics of this film are clear for all to see and sadly this Thriller is not in the same league, even if its leading lady most certainly is.
The Girl On The Train is a perfectly acceptable rainy evening murder/mystery viewing but there is the unshakable feeling that it could be so much more. Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay is fractured into different times and flashbacks but unlike the aforementioned, here it becomes so fragmented and occasionally jarring that it doesn’t always hang together all that well. You end up feeling that the journey is becoming a tad languorous on the way to the resolution. Though, thankfully, the payoff is well delivered, offering a decent enough twist and necessary bursts of genuinely sickening violence, that grasps you by the throat. The atmosphere is properly moody, with Danny Elfman’s score doing its best Trent Razor/Atticus Ross impression at points but the film is plagued with logical gaps and some trashy turns akin to Channel 5 TV Drama.
However, for all its faults, we cannot bring ourselves to cancel the journey at any time thanks to the sublime work of Emily Blunt. Blunt is awards worthy here and steals the screen from every and any co-star (though Luke Evans, Justin Theroux and Haley Bennett are effective in their parts) in a performance that is shattering, realistic and utterly compelling. Her portrayal of alcoholism forgoes the usual stumbling slurring shtick and actually digs into the pain and loss of such a condition. Truth be told Blunt is the most realistic onscreen drunk we have ever seen (and we mean that in the most complimentary way) and her plight and discovery that she is out of whack with the world is a more interesting story than the one at the core of the film. She is the glue that holds the film together at points and in fact she elevates its class overall.
So yes, Blunt is just brilliant and overall The Girl On The Train has some clout and gravitas, with intense direction at points from Tate Taylor (The Help), an undeniable grasp of its morose tone and a finale that does deliver. It is just a shame that the flaws are not straightened out more, as it feels like there is a film in this material offering far more knife edge tension and unpredictability than we receive here. The film reminds one of Before The Winter Chill in that it features a great lead and atmosphere but with a lacking narrative connection and lack of structure. It’s no Gone Girl but Blunt keeps this train on the tracks.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TATE TAYLOR / SCREENPLAY: ERIN CRESSIDA WILSON / STARRING: EMILY BLUNT, HALEY BENNETT, REBECCA FERGUSON, JUSTIN THEROUX, LUKE EVANS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 8/10