Review - 'The Girl on the Train'
Here's a film that has a big mystery that it really doesn't want you to know until the end. Sometimes the problem with pictures like this is that they will go to unbelievable lengths to conceal their mystery. So, while this can be an effective pot-boiler, it also gets too nervous that you might figure out its secret too soon, and begins going in illogical directions to keep you off of the scent. Thankfully we have Emily Blunt, who is phenomenal here and keeps all of the drifting shards of the story connected, albeit by the most tenuous of threads.
Tate Taylor's The Girl on the Train is based off of the popular best-selling book of the same name which was written by Paula Hawkins. *deep breath* The story follows the distraught and often-drunk divorcee, Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) as she takes daily trips on the train to and from New York City. She likes to observe a couple that lives two houses down from the house she used to live in with her ex-husband (Justin Theroux). When she witnesses the wife of this seemingly perfect couple having an affair with another man, she is filled with rage. In a drunken stupor she pursues who she thinks to be her ex-husband's new wife into a tunnel. Rachel wakes up the next day with blood on her face and shirt and figures out that the girl who had the affair has gone missing.
I know the comparisons have already been made, but they're true; this film is Gone Girl-lite. The way the film presents and attempts to unfold its mystery, the foreboding tone and even the way it looks and sounds is all very much reminiscent of Fincher's work. The difference though, is that a master-class director like David Fincher knows how to keep you guessing through subtle tricks and clever sleight-of-hand. The Girl on the Train thinks it's being clever in that same way, but it's really just being tedious. The movie is organized in a very sloppy way, especially in the second act where you get a glut of scenes that don't flow together, mainly because this film doesn't deal with the passage of time all that well. That said, the mystery itself is a compelling one and the film managed to keep my interest from start to finish despite its many short-comings.
What really helps the film succeed is the absolute power-house performance by Emily Blunt. I never thought I would believe that the always put-together and beautiful Emily Blunt could be a borderline psychotic drunk, but boy does she pull it off here. There are so many emotionally traumatic moments in this film that work because of her. I also felt that the scenes rife with tension and suspense were more palpable because you cared about her character's well-being. There are other good performances in the film as well. Luke Evans plays the husband of the missing woman with intense conviction. Rebecca Ferguson and Hayley Bennett also turn in believable performances. Justin Theroux was also good here, though his character's motivations and actions bordered on being a bit of a caricature. I was a bit underwhelmed by the rest of the cast, namely Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon who aren't bad but are basically just there for exposition.
The film is shot in a way that is indicative of David Fincher's more recent work. The film is very blue-grey in color-tones and everything feels cold and almost lifeless. It's an effective look to be sure, but it's nothing I haven't seen before. I also wanted more shots of the scenery, which goes a long way in bringing me into the space of the film. There's one very memorable shot right as the credits begin to roll which I wish we had seen more of. The score by Danny Elfman is also effective and a pretty big departure from his other work, but again, you get the sense that he's mimicking Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's work.
Despite the films lack of finesse when it comes to unraveling the mystery, The Girl on the Train has a phenomenal lead in the form of Emily Blunt, who really sells the hell out of her character. You also care about her, which makes the film's stabs at tension and suspense hit their needed marks when she's in danger. The Girl on the Train is a decent mystery thriller worth checking out, and though it's narrative can be frustrating to follow, it manages to piece itself together by the end in a satisfying way.