THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Director: Tate Taylor
Screenplay by: Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez and Lisa Kudrow
Released: 20th September, 2016
It’s hard to summarise a movie for which the title explains a good fifty percent of the movie, but here it goes. Based on the award winning novel by Paula Hawkins of the same name, The Girl on the Train stars Emily Blunt as Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee to Tom Watson, a New York businessman (Justin Theroux), who she caught red-handed in the throes of an affair with their real estate agent, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson)… and that’s just the back story. The movie centralises around Rachel’s alcoholism predominantly, posing her as the “hero” of the story in ways that were less explored by the novel as she attempts to piece together her memories.
The eponymous train is an undefined commuter train, presumably from Long Island to Manhattan, judging by the size of the houses that it passes, which Rachel rides daily to her “job” in Manhattan. Strangely enough, this one train happens to pass that one street where she lived that one time, allowing her to spy on both her ex-husband’s family and a seemingly loving young couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) Hipwell. The first part of the film centralises around her history, her alcoholism and the dependency which she has formed around watching the Hipwells, pedestalising them as the very epitome of what she has lost.
Suddenly, and somewhat conveniently, one morning Rachel spots Megan with another man, breaking her illusion of the Hipwells as a perfect couple. Of course, as Rachel’s dependency on them as a symbol of what she once had crumbles, she spirals into a sort of alcohol-fuelled frenzy, and she experiences (and not for the first time) a black-out. When she awakens the next morning, she is covered in blood and remembers only fragments of the night before, and her mission to discover the truth begins.
The movie in itself is aesthetically pleasing – New York is characteristically vibrant, Emily Blunt makes a convincing transformation from PR consultant/wife to alcoholic with a seemingly endless alimony, and Danny Elfman’s accompanying soundtrack creates a gloomy yet thrilling tone surrounding the action of the film. Yet there comes the sense that something is not quite “there” in the movie – the actors and producers have done well with what they had to work on, and yet the dismal novel doesn’t quite translate to the big screen. The characters originally are all unlikeable, and yet jarringly realistic; they echo the tragic realities of the society in which we live. In the film, however, they seem to be all too redeemable and consequently two dimensional, all the while feeling wholly undeveloped, therefore upsetting the idea that this could happen to you, or anyone you know; at best, they present themselves as stereotypes of the books stereotypes.
This isn’t to say the movie isn’t, at the very least, good – it ticks many boxes and definitely engages the detective in all of us, and at the beginning of the film it was unclear (to me at least) who the culprit of the crime is. However, it falls into the trap that so many thrillers of today are victim to – the audience begins to realise who the culprit is before the main character(s) do, making the ending feel drawn out and slow.
Perhaps it is because we are now surrounded by explorative melodramas, perhaps because the element of surprise in criminal investigation is now dampened by the existence of forensic science, but there is something overwhelmingly difficult when creating a modern thriller. Whatever it may be that causes this difficulty in creating a convincing thriller film, it appears that The Girl on the Train, like so many of its contemporaries, has fallen victim to it.
RATING: 3 trains out of 5