Adapted from last year’s bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train takes an intriguing premise and authentic, and at times breathtaking, performance by Emily Blunt and culminates in a jumbled, claustrophobic, indifferent product.
Starting off with the character of Rachel (Blunt), an alcoholic on the verge of a mental breakdown due in part by her recent divorce, who rides the train into Manhattan on a daily basis before witnessing something that may or may not link her into the disappearance of a young woman. The intrigue of the plot is best left undiscussed as to keep the mystery intact, yet, as someone who had not read the novel, it did come across as somewhat disappointing. A large factor of this may be the fault of the screenplay crafted by Erin Cressida Wilson, which switches tones on a whim while never truly committing to a certain structure to help guide the film along.
Director Tate Taylor keeps the film moving at an extremely rapid pace, never letting the story take a moment to settle, instead going for a “page turning” feel that struggles to keep the audience completely informed before the credits roll. While the film does look quite attractive, it is framed in such a way that never gives the story a chance to shine, boring coverage and ideas that allow for the actors to develop their characters in interesting ticks and rumination but never feels like more than the bare minimum. Coming off the massive success of a film like 2013’s The Help, it is a shame to see a director of such promise flounder in creating a truly gripping atmosphere even as his prowess with character actors still is apparent.
Emily Blunt provides such an utterly compelling performance as a destructive alcoholic unsure of what she may be capable of that she soars above the admittedly safe direction and an unbalanced screenplay. Rachel is convincing, terrorized by her actions and unable to escape the house-fire of a life she lives. Both Hayley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson are also quite well rounded in their performances. Sadly Ferguson is not given much screen time and is often relegated to the simple wife character the material seems to try and shy away from.
Many people, including myself, have unjustly compared this film to that of Gone Girl, another huge novel about a woman and her possibly unfaithful narration. This stands to work against the film as The Girl on the Train is not nearly a transgressive of the medium as the other book. In terms of the films quality Tate Taylor squanders any female empowerment in favour of scintillating sexy stars revolving solely around the men in their lives.
While the intrigue does help propel the movie to its expected and short conclusion, it is mainly for the incredible performance given by Blunt that can have any recommendation. Her towering performance is one that should have been given greater justice in terms of the rest of the film.