Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: The Girl On The Train

The Girl On The Train (SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 112 mins / Dir. Tate Taylor / Trailer

Now you could go to see The Girl On The Train and compare it, perhaps unfavourably, to last year's Gone Girl. Alternatively, you could make the same comparison after watching the trailer and save yourself two hours*1...

Troubled commuter Rachel gazes out of the train window every day, imagining the details of the perfect lives of strangers. But when one such subject, Megan Hepwell*2, goes missing, a police investigation turns up unexpected connections between the two and unearths more uncertainty than it resolves...

Tate Taylor's adaptation of the best-selling novel runs in dual timelines, each slowly filling in the past and the present, intertwining to paint a full picture (yeah, like Gone Girl). And that's fine, but the drawback is that the past of the core players becomes much more important (and more interesting) than their present/future. Despite a sizeable secondary and tertiary cast-list, there are really only five characters in the story (and one of them's dead for most of it. Spoilers), so when the curtain is lifted on the final reveal it works, but you could imagine three other versions of the film showing different outcomes and being just as convincing. With this in mind, it's probably not unfair to say that the performances in The Girl On The Train are far better than the film itself.

Speaking of which, Emily Blunt's performance in particular is far better than everyone else's. I was initially concerned that she opens the film basically 'turned up to 10' as neurotic alcoholic Rachel, because where do you take things from there? But to her eternal credit, as the film slowly digs deeper and piles up tension around the character, Blunt sustains her unhinged intensity perfectly. Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson both put in strong turns, albeit with slightly flimsier characters; Justin Theroux and Edgar Ramírez chew the scenery slightly as one-note placeholders (in a nice reversal of typical Hollywood gender-typecasting); and Luke Evans seems to have peaked for the year, so is back to comedy-scowling and failing to control an accent in a built-up screenplay. Bless him.

All in all, The Girl On The Train is a pretty good thriller. It's just nowhere near as groundbreaking or insightful as it seems to hope it is*3.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Yeah, Gone Girl.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
It's not essential to your enjoyment of the film, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think so, but it's not trying to reinvent the genre or anything.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Blunt is on top form here, with reliably solid support.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: You remember when that Emily Blunt was in Wild Target with that Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor? Well, she was…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 That joke stolen wholesale and unashamedly from Mr Stewart Lee.

*2 Although Megan's life isn't that perfect, is it? Water-view from her balcony or not, she's still got a commuter-level train track running past the bottom of the garden. Good luck trying to get a lie-in with that racket going on…

*3 Although it's nice that when you find out who-did-it, there's no deep psychological layering to explore. It's just "yeah, because [person] is an arsehole, mate". Which is probably far, far closer to most real-life cases of this type, I'm guessing. Fair play.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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