A twisting, exciting, messy roller-coaster from start to finish.
The film centres around three women, but mainly Rachel (Emily Blunt). Rachel is an alcoholic struggling from her divorce who always sees an idealistic couple through the window of the train she takes into the city. She longs to have what they have again, but one day she sees something shocking that turns everything on it’s head and drags her into the mystery that unfolds.
The Girl on the Train is hard to place. At face value the film is exciting, twisting, disturbing and has some really solid performances which make the thriller all the more creepy and, well, thrilling. However, the closer you look (and as a writer, of course I do) you come to realise there’s a lot of problems with the film, particularly in it’s structure.
The film was adapted from the 2015 best-selling book, written by Paula Hawkins, which contains a mix of unreliable narration of which there are three, suspicious characters and a slowly unravelling mystery. Being that the book has these three unreliable narrators, it isn’t an obvious choice for adaptation to the screen as this will of course create a lot of challenges in such a different medium, which is exactly what happened.
As harsh as it sounds, it feels as though Tate Taylor (Director) and Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay writer) didn’t really know how to tell this story. They’ve attempted to get round the triple narrator problem with voice-overs and adding more close-ups, which feels a lazy and jarring way around the problem. The film gets lost in whether it’s displaying things from Rachel’s perspective or from a neutral one which ruins what could have been a much stronger film.
It would have been a much better idea to actually adapt the book to fit the medium of film, to give us (the audience) one central protagonist that we can view the film through, rather than a cluster of unreliable and unnecessary voice-overs.
They almost had this in Rachel, and due to her character’s alcoholism and black-outs she was a genuinely intriguing protagonist, albeit a difficult one to connect with at times due to her unstable nature. But this reflects the way the film flows and how Rachel isn’t trusted by other characters as well.
Speaking of Emily Blunt’s character, she does a very good job in displaying Rachel’s psychotic, confused behaviour as well as her alcoholism. She’s an intriguing, messy, unstable protagonist who’s unpredictable, which is something often seen in the antagonistic role of a twisting thriller such as this.
The twists themselves, although enjoyable, are somewhat predictable. The film doesn’t entirely flip everything on it’s head, there’s no grand reveal or fantastic turn around, but rather the narrative just simply plays out to it’s somewhat twisting conclusion. It’s easy to see where the film is heading from quite early for those who know film, the genre and story-telling, which again makes the film lack in it’s punch.
All in all, the film isn’t awful. Yes, it’s messy, confused in what it’s trying to do, the twists are somewhat predictable etc. but it’s still an entertaining watch. It doesn’t hold up to a thriller such as Gone Girl (2014) but it’s still an enjoyable ride nonetheless.