“When I saw her, with him, I felt nothing but rage.”
I’ve said it before. Super-twisty crime-thrillers are a real favourite of mine. To immerse myself in a film for a couple of hours wondering whether or not I’ve figured out the inevitable twist is one of my favourite things to do. Second only really to watching a good horror film.
I’d been looking forward to The Girl on the Train for quite some time. Not least of all because Emily Blunt is nothing short of amazing and the trailers made it look like this year’s Gone Girl – more on that later – but also because a good thriller can be quite hard to come by sometimes. This one looked to scratch the itch well.
Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a woman who spends her commute to the city in the same seat every day, staring out of the same window of her train. Most days, the train slows down at the exact same point on the tracks allowing Rachel a glimpse into the same few houses and the same few inhabitants, just for a couple of minutes. She concocts stories for the families she sees, connecting with these total strangers better than anyone she knows in real life. Watching married couple Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett) live what she thinks is the perfect life, she purposely fills herself with jealousy staring at the life she wants.
When Rachel sees Megan apparently cheating on her other half, this fires up a rage in her that she hasn’t experienced before. The near psychotic alcoholic makes the decision to get off the train a few stops early and confront the woman that’s ruined her fantasy for her. Chasing Megan under a railway bridge, drunk and hurling abuse, Watson sets in motion a series of events that (whilst she doesn’t remember it) ends in the disappearance of the unfaithful Megan and a police investigation that may, or may not, have The Girl on the Train as their main suspect. Rachel fights to prove her innocence and rescue her sanity as her world starts to crumble around her.
The Girl on the Train screams of a film rushed into production because a certain other film based on a book was received so very well. But the sad fact is, this flick is nowhere near as good as it’s advertised to be.
The film’s story is almost incomprehensible as its flashbacks try to set the scene while simultaneously telling her story in the present day. But with nothing discernibly separating the flashbacks from the current scenes, you’re left wondering for longer than you should be about what part of the timeline you are watching. It seems that The Help director Tate Taylor had a few ideas that he wanted in his film, but either didn’t take, or ignored, advice on whether or not these things should be in his movie. Smash cutting blurry flashbacks might be trying to convey the feeling of trying to remember what you done when you were drunk, for example, but all it did was leave me feeling like I need to go have a word with the projectionist for fuzzing up my film. It’s so grossly over directed that nothing really got to shine in the two hours I was watching it for. The same can be said for its editing; shredded to within an inch of its life, The Girl on the Train is just a mess of a film to watch.
Blunt is trying very hard, and she’s always good to watch, but even she can’t rescue the film. Her performance is easily the best thing about the flick, but to say that I’m damning her with faint praise would be understating it quite a bit. Her perfect couple are decent to watch: Luke Evans and Haley Bennett are passable as a happy-on-the-surface couple, but Evans doesn’t really convince me when things start to go tits up. Similarly, Justin Theroux and Rebecca Ferguson as Rachel’s ex-husband and new wife, caught up in the middle of our main character’s psychotic break, feel like an afterthought for a large portion rather than the quiet subplot that they are. It’s a shame to watch a few well-known actors, who all have a decent role or two on their IMDB page, do such a clunky job of telling this story.
For a film relentlessly marketed like the next Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train doesn’t even have the chops to sit on the same shelf as Fincher’s superb thriller. Every ad made us believe we were off so see another beautifully twisted thriller that would leave you pondering after it was done. Sadly, once you got through the dodgy direction and erratic editing, what we were left with was something so bland and formulaic that to call its twist a “twist” would be close to false advertising.