Based on the acclaimed best-selling novel of the same name, director Tate Taylor’s attempt at transitioning this mystery thriller to the big screen enables big names such as Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans in a plot that’s so convoluted you may need a full low down rather than a snippet of a premise to understand even just slightly what the hell is going on.
Post-divorce, Rachel (Blunt) travels every day to the city. On her travels, she focuses on the house two doors down from her past home with ex-husband Tom (Theroux) who now lives there with new wife Anna (Ferguson). The house, however, of which she fixates belongs to two unknowns (Bennett and Evans), though their frequent grasps and windowsill kisses leads Rachel to think and believe these two are the epitome of love, creating an elaborate dream life of the ominous couple in her head.
One fortuitous day on her way to work, Rachel witnesses something peculiar. The next day, the blonde bombshell that resides in the wondrous fantasy in her mind goes missing. Filled with grief, shock and anger, Rachel makes it her own agenda to uncover the truth.
On paper, this intense and rapid page-turner ignited a nation of nail-biters. Flying through Paula Hawkins’ novel that inspires thoughts of a Hitchcockian thriller for a British audience, Erin Cressida Wilson’s adapted screenplay (giving us the socially-relevant but critically-panned Men, Women and Children and the erotic thriller Chloe) swaps the tracks of London to something a little more Stateside, immediately erasing a large chunk of what induced a welcomed, raw grittiness to the story. And here lays the beacon of negativity that shrouds most if not all book-to-film transfers. You can’t please everybody, after all.
It almost feels like Blunt carries the essence of Hawkins’ British roots; a tremendous actress whose turn in last year’s Sicario proved one of the best performances of the year. Her range is astounding as she flits from character to character with an uncommon likability, and as Rachel this never particularly differs.
In the case of such a mystery it’s essentially impossible without ruining titbits of premise, though what can be said is that though her character is reduced to a snotty, blubbering, sometimes overly-hallucinative state, her range is what wholeheartedly carries this guessing game from opener to red herring to eventual twist. From pure rage to overwhelming upset, this is a Blunt force of a performance that highlights one of today’s finest actresses, sporting a spectrum that blows all.
The film’s unmistakably Gone Girl-lite, weaving the same webs of deceit, cheating spouses and glorified murder. But who dunnit? Red herrings are splashed here and there but throughout it becomes strikingly clear that both Hawkins’ base novel and Wilson’s adapted screenplay highlights an astounding amount of female talent orchestrated by intriguing and tantalising characters, with a dream female cast that ranges from somewhat new to genuine stars like Allison Janney.
The males, Theroux and Evans, however fall in the pit where development lays within measly flashbacks in a timescale that dramatically wavers and sometimes bewilders, hindering the final chapter in an effect that doesn’t quite punch as thoroughly as it did in the novel.
For all its intents and purposes, The Girl on the Train engages enough to withstand 112 minutes of a mystery that’s wrought with enough tension and usual tropes to glorify a transfer to the big screen. The performances glamorise the psychodrama, allowing an able investment and an indulgence in a game of guess who.
Dir: Tate Taylor
Scr: Erin Cressida Wilson
Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Allison Janney, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans
Prd: Jared LeBoff, Marc Platt
Music: Danny Elfman
DOP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Runtime: 112 minutes