The Girl on the Train

 

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Emily Blunt cannot save Tate Taylor’s disjointed and predictable thriller.

 

Girl on the Train    

Girl gets going: Emily Blunt

 

Beware what you glimpse. It might not be the whole picture. Besides, who knows what’s in the mind of the beholder? Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) travels to Manhattan every day by train and happens to pass the house in which she once lived with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux). Two doors down lives one Megan Hipwell (Hayley Bennett), whose radiant beauty and daily appearance on her veranda at the precise moment Rachel’s train passes each morning begins to cast a spell on our passenger. And then she witnesses something out of the ordinary. Therein lies the problem at the heart of this mystery-thriller. Too much hinges on an improbable moment in time.

 

The film, adapted from Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel of the same name, has much in common with Gone Girl, with its cold steel visual palette, scenes of carnal activity, marital dysfunction and the vanishing act of a leading character. But Gone Girl, for all its grandiloquent improbabilities, was an artfully calibrated thing, enriched by vivid characterisation. Here, the protagonists are but ciphers, manipulated at will to lead us down the garden path and to the film’s dubious – and predictable – conclusion. Emily Blunt’s Rachel is an unreliable witness and an unengaging sad sack with virtually no back story. We grasp she’s English and likes to draw, but we know nothing other than that she’s been driven to drink. Blunt tries her best but is not provided with the tools to make Rachel anything more than a tiresome narrative device.

 

Another adaptation of a crime novel, Derailed (2005), was also kindled by a commuter train journey and starred Jennifer Aniston. Here, Ms Aniston’s husband Justin Theroux plays Rachel’s ex and is just one of six characters in search of a narrative. And with just six figures in the landscape, once certain options have been eliminated, the story can only bounce in so many directions. Thus, it’s easy to guess where it’s going. The one character that really registers is Megan, played with resonance by Hayley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven), but then she’s allowed to reveal all to her psychiatrist (Édgar Ramírez) to whose sessions we are privy.

 

In a desperate attempt to keep us on our toes, director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and his scenarist Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) have concocted a mosaic approach to the proceedings, cutting back and forth between time and the protagonists’ point-of-view. This fragmentary technique merely serves to alienate and not only frustrates any narrative momentum but serves to confuse. Furthermore, it prevents us from connecting with – or caring for – anybody.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon.

 

Dir Tate Taylor, Pro Marc Platt, Screenplay Erin Cressida Wilson, Ph Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Pro Des Kevin Thompson, Ed Michael McCusker, Music Danny Elfman, Costumes Michelle Matland and Ann Roth.

 

DreamWorks Pictures/Reliance Entertainment/Marc Platt Productions-Entertainment One.

111 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 5 October 2016. Cert. 15.