Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez
Paula Hawkin’s 2015 novel topped bestseller lists all over the world, and was highly visible on sun loungers and train carriages over that summer. Everyone was lapping up the complex, dark thriller, that interweaves the tales of 3 different women, as murderous events unfold in the houses alongside a London train track. It has us all asking the question, “who really killed Megan Hipwell, and what did the various narrators have to do with it?”
Tate Taylor’s film adaptation (with screenplay by ‘Secretary’ writer Erin Cressida Wilson) relocates the thriller from the compact grey back gardens of London, to the large, sprawling yards of outer New York. Straightaway this leads to questions about why some of these people are parading around in their underwear outdoors! The London setting makes sense of this, as we’re all so on top of each other we do tend to see everything, in New York however the only answer seems to be plain old exhibitionism.
Dowdy alcoholic divorcee Rachel, the first of our unreliable narrators, remains English and is played beautifully by Emily Blunt, while all the other characters become New Yorkers. Unfortunately even with a red nose and slightly ruffled hair, Emily Blunt’s version of dowdy alcoholism is most people’s stunningly gorgeous, so some belief has to be suspended here. Despite the fact we have to believe that Luke Evans would be repulsed at the thought of sleeping with her, Blunt’s mounting anger, confusion and desperation is convincing, and we do begin to wonder what happened on the night Megan Hipwell disappeared.
The final product was engaging for the most part, but felt more like a daytime soap opera than a big budget thriller, and the final act proved to be confusing. The plot is changed from a tightly woven “whodunnit” to a somewhat straggly why-did-these-people-marry-each-other story. The characters’ motivations somehow get completely lost in translation from the source material, with an ending which seemingly comes out of nowhere as a result of this. The dialogue seems to be an endless series of clumsy expositions, which feel stilted and unnatural. What should have been a taut thriller feels oddly exploitative instead, with none of the male characters coming out of the narrative well. The sex scenes, both real and of Rachel’s imagination, are both glossy and grubby, seeming to pander to the post-50 Shades audience.
Even the cinematography falls into the realms of the “blah”, with the muted greys of autumnal New York feeling like someone has put on a permanent Instagram filter, rather than a statement of artistic intent. The scenes which do work well are again linked to Emily Blunt, with woozy camera focus and tight framing adding to the sense that this is a woman who is out of control and has no interest in recovering that control.
‘The Girl on the Train’ is mildly entertaining, but too long, and ultimately as confused about its own motivations as the characters seem to be. Emily Blunt becomes the film’s saving grace, but leaves you struggling to remember if there were in fact any other actors on screen, or if there was much else to enjoy about this film.