List Film

The Girl on the Train (3 stars)

Paula Hawkins's bestseller becomes a moderately entertaining thriller starring Emily Blunt

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The Girl on the Train

Speeding its way into cinemas hoping to replicate the success of the comparably tricksy, similarly scheduled Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train is this autumn's high-profile whodunit. Based on the bestseller by British author Paula Hawkins, it's a glossily presented but strangely unsuspenseful affair; the pleasingly old-fashioned concept nods to Rear Window and Agatha Christie, while cool visuals, contemporary cynicism and wafty Fifty Shades-esque eroticism bring it bang up to date.

Although the action is transposed from London to New York, Tate Taylor (Get on Up, The Help) takes the helm of an otherwise faithful telling of the tale – yet this thriller virgin proves to be far from a master of mood. Haley Bennett is ice queen Megan, the vanishing lady around who the plot pivots; Rebecca Ferguson is her neighbour Anna, the other Hitchcockian blonde; and Emily Blunt plays our protagonist Rachel, a wan brunette, drowning in a drink problem – a character described in the book as 'no longer desirable', a statement that seems laughable here. Rachel is also the titular voyeur, spying on both women via her commuter route, manufacturing a fantasy narrative for stranger Megan and her husband Scott (Luke Evans), and keeping an envious eye on Anna, the new wife of her ex Tom (Justin Theroux).

Blunt gives a raw, committed performance and her unglamorous, often unreliable heroine makes for an intriguing focus amidst the otherwise largely superficial characterisations: the men for example are necessarily interchangeable, universally swarthy and suspicious. Nevertheless, The Girl on the Train is refreshingly female-fronted with three warring women at the fore, Allison Janney as the detective, somewhat slackly, on the trail, and supporting roles for Orange Is the New Black's Laura Prepon and Lisa Kudrow.

Meaty issues around motherhood, infidelity and domestic abuse are touched upon, albeit not adequately explored, and the confrontational close-ups favoured by DP Charlotte Bruus Christensen have an intimate, woozy and penetrative quality which lends a psychological dimension to proceedings that's sometimes lacking in Erin Cressida Wilson's merely functional script – quite the contrast to the killer observations and it-feels-good-to-be-bad mischievousness of the aforementioned Gone Girl. The source material is undoubtedly an issue here, its easily anticipated trajectory a major sticking point. Adhering so closely to the book results in a fan-pleasing adaptation that stays obediently on track, even if that means delivering us to an all-too predictable destination.

General release from Wed 5 Oct.

The Girl on the Train

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 112 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Tate Taylor
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux

Rachel (Blunt) spies on people from her commute to work, including ice queen Megan (Bennett) and her neighbour Anna (Ferguson). Then Megan disappears. Glossy but strangely unsuspenseful thriller which sticks too close to the book to be unpredictable, but there are refreshingly many decent roles for women, and Blunt is raw…

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