Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson & Haley Bennett
The Girl on the Train, a mystery thriller directed by Tate Taylor, is the latest New York Times bestseller to be adapted to the big screen. In the lead role as Rachel Watson, Emily Blunt delivers the best performance of the film, and arguably the best of her career. Blunt plays an alcoholic, and manages to look convincingly drunk throughout the film, perfectly balancing unpredictability and vulnerability. Her solo scenes are a masterclass in non-verbals, where the audience can easily understand and empathise with her character. In contrast, Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson as the other two female leads are not particularly captivating, and at times, feel outclassed.
The cinematography is great throughout in creating a sense of instability and isolation for Blunt’s character. The director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen is an expert at giving each characters’ scenes a certain feel to support their current state of mind. (See also: 2012’s The Hunt).
Taylor’s direction places a strong emphasis on individual scenes and moments, every scene is engaging in its own right, but fit together awkwardly in a series of flashbacks and shifting perspectives. Unlike Fincher’s Gone Girl where every scene feels important to the plot regardless of where it takes place chronologically, Train finds itself getting bogged down in moments insignificant to plot. In this sense, Taylor seems unsure whether he wants to tell a series of character studies or a mystery thriller with intertwining perspectives.
Ultimately, Train lacks the most important element of a mystery thriller: the audience feeling they are active participants in the mystery being solved. Instead, you are well aware of what the film wants you think at every moment as it forces you to focus on red herring after red herring until the third act arrives and things need to be wrapped up. And while there are twists and turns, they are too without sufficient setup and depth to make you want to watch the film again to find all the clues you may have missed.
The Girl on the Train is an engaging enough of an experience to justify checking out, but I don’t feel that it will hold up after multiple viewings or stand the test of time.
Review by Matt Maltman