The Girl on the Train

5/10/2016 | Jake Richardson

Emily Blunt gives an enthralling performance in this twisty-turny domestic thriller, but Tate Taylor’s rendition of Fincher’s greatest hits falls short of its’ true potential. 

 

Rachel is a divorced alcoholic, still struggling with the failure of her marriage. As she finds solace at the bottom of a bottle, Rachel struggles to maintain an appearance of normalcy. She is driven every day into greater paranoia. Her daily train rides, coincidentally past her ex-husband's house, find her drawing ever more disturbing images and becoming suspicious of her fellow commuters. As she gazes out the window, she finds herself paying particular attention to the perfect couple in the house two doors down from her old home. One morning, after she blacks out the night before, Rachel awakes to discover that the wife of this perfect couple has gone missing, and she is the prime suspect. 

Director Tate Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson have adapted Paula Hawkins novel but changed the location from London to New York. The novel provides an interesting structure to the film, with different segments being told in the different voices of three female leads: Rachel, Anna and Megyn. However, it also jumps forwards and backwards in time. This proves occasionally confusing and disorienting, but for the most part is effective in keeping the suspense of the story alive; a remarkable feat for a modern adaptation of a novel. It is perhaps here that we find the films greatest success, as its surprises and shocks land almost unanimously. The secrets revealed leave the viewer astounded

and shocked, making it worth the price of admission. 

 

Such a story is backed up by a spectacular performance by Emily Blunt. She is convincing as the alcohol-soaked Rachel. One particular scene as she describes her potential murder in a bathroom in NYC is particularly effective, and Blunt inhabits this manic personality with aplomb. Unfortunately, some of the other characters don’t fare as well, particularly if they are male. While Luke Evans’ Scott is well developed, Edgar Ramirez’s Dr. Kamal Abdic and Justin Theroux’s Tom are particularly poorly developed. This removes some of the potency of the twists regarding these characters, and is a weak point in the direction of Taylor. 

Speaking of Taylor’s direction, The Girl On The Train was always going to draw comparisons with the recent adaptation of Gone Girl. They are both domestic-set, female-driven thrillers adapted from novels by female writers. But if you thought that such potential for comparison would lead Tate Taylor to try and add a distinctive twist to his final product to differentiate the two, then you would be sorely mistaken. Cinematography and direction feel straight out of the David Fincher handbook. Indeed, there is even a similarly brutal death inflicted by the main character. 

But this is the perfect example of why The Girl On The Train is just good, not great: because of it’s inability to live up to what has come before. The brutal death scene had our cinema in hysterics, whereas laughter was not present during the similar scene in Gone Girl. It’s characteristic of the rest of the picture. Tate Taylor can’t shake the shadow of David Fincher, and you’ll be left wishing you had watched Gone Girl again.

Conclusion

While the direction leaves you wishing for the steady hand of Fincher, The Girl On The Train, backed by a tremendous performance from Emily Blunt and with an enthralling story, is certainly worth the price of admission.