Shaky mystery on wrong track
I was one of the 11 million-plus who bought and read The Girl on the Train novel so was looking forward to seeing how the mystery-thriller’s quick-paced twists and turns played out on the big screen.
Throw in direction from Tate Taylor – whose 2011 drama The Help took home the Best Picture Oscar – and the selection of Secretary writer Erin Cressida Wilson to adapt Paula Hawkins’ literary phenomenon and everything seemed on the right track for greatness.
And while Emily Blunt may not fit the dowdy, overweight book description of leading lady Rachel, she is one of the finest actresses currently plying her trade.
Why, then, does the movie take on The Girl on the Train feel a little flat? Perhaps it’s because I knew everything that was coming – this is one of the most faithful cinematic adaptations of a novel you’ll ever see.
Maybe it’s the controversial decision to relocate the action from the book’s bustling London to a picture-perfect New York full of fancy homes and autumnal back yards.
The flashback and memory-fuelled plot device doesn’t work as effectively on screen as it does in print and, in my humble opinion, the film signposts its biggest revelation even earlier than its source material did.
But even allowing for its flaws – and having advance notice of its storyline – The Girl on the Train still works as a captivating, almost ghoulish peek behind the curtain of lives that are nowhere near as perfect as they appear on the surface.
Wilson’s script loses none of the secrets, lies, falsehoods and sketchy memories flowing through the pages of Hawkins’ book to serve up a host of deeply flawed characters all with their own agendas.
Characters that are played with great gusto by a largely impressive cast, led by yet another accomplished turn by Londoner Blunt.
She may not be the Rachel pictured by many reading the novel, but Blunt makes for a convincing drunk; sporting tired eyes and a permanently scarlet nose given frequent extra emphasis by Taylor’s camera close-ups.
Like in last year’s outstanding Sicario, Blunt is put through mental and physical hell as the unreliable narrator out to solve the mystery.
Jennifer Lawrence look-a-like Haley Bennett is a powder keg of flirtatious vulnerability and an icy Rebecca Ferguson leaves you questioning her motives right to the very end.
Edgar Ramírez’s hard to read therapist sees the Venezuelan outshine his starrier male costars; Luke Evans is saddled with a thankless, underwritten role and Justin Theroux struggles with his character’s development.
A perfunctory thriller that may have worked better during the late 80s/ early 90s potboiler craze, The Girl on the Train fails to build on the solid platform afforded by its more memorable source material.
On the lookout Blunt casts her eyes out of the train