The Girl on the Train (15)
Rachel Watson is an alcoholic whose life is falling apart around her. Every day she takes the train into the city and then takes a train back home, all the while drinking heavily. From the window of the train she watches the lives of others flash by and fantasises about the seemingly idyllic lives of Scott and Megan Hipwell. However, when Megan goes missing and is presumed dead Rachel realises that amidst her drunken haze she saw something from the train window that could be the clue that is the key to finding what happened to Megan.
Let me preface this review by saying that Emily Blunt is 33 years old, therefore she is a woman not a girl. Everyone got that? Good.
The Girl on the Train had the potential to be truly fantastic and it looked for all the world like it was going to be this year’s Before I Go To Sleep or even this year’s Gone Girl. Unfortunately this was not the case, which is a shame because I really, really like Emily Blunt. I hope she didn’t turn down something good to do this. Emily Blunt is not the problem with this film, because she acts up a storm she really does. Her performance as an alcoholic is fantastic and above all: believable. I myself have never met an alcoholic and I am not an alcoholic myself, but I’m old enough to know that a lot of actors never grasp what it means to be an alcoholic. Emily Blunt, on the other hand, absolutely does. She is a portrait of someone who has a habit that she is desperately struggling with as it causes her entire life to crumble around her, it serves as an acting masterclass to people like Woody Harrelson and Krysten Ritter who’s portrayals of alcoholics in The Hunger Games and Jessica Jones respectively are borderline comic.
My problem with this film is the first hour or so. We are introduced to character after character and each and every one is insipid and unlikeable and deeply uninteresting 2-D archetypes. The only likeable character is Laura Prepon who is barely in it and the only character I wanted to succeed was the detective played by Allison Janney. The reason Before I Go To Sleep worked so well was because we felt sympathy for the main character who woke up every morning not remembering any events that had happened after the age of 14. She was a sympathetic character who wanted to solve the mystery of who had attacked her and left her with amnesia. It was a powerful and gripping tale filled to the brim with Hitchcockian suspense, that was let down by an ending that was a little too neat for my taste. Gone Girl is another film that The Girl on The Train has been compared to and it is much better for a wide range of reasons, character development being the main one.
In the second half of the film things do improve significantly as revelations come to light that allow the mystery at the centre of the film to be solved. It was very good and the gradual unravelling of the mystery is superb and it concluded in a very satisfactory way. The second half was the part that managed to fully engage me and it did keep me guessing as I wasn’t sure where it was going. The second half does have some problems, some of which I can’t mention without spoiling the film, so I won’t. (Minor spoiler ahead) The one thing I will mention because it is quite insensitive bordering on offensive is how in the second half of the film Emily Blunt’s character is magically no longer drinking. There is a segment where she attends one AA meeting and that’s it, there’s no other on-screen sign of her struggling to give up, one minute she can’t control herself and then the next minute she’s on the wagon. I thought that was a bit distasteful, but aside from that the second half is a pretty solid thriller.
This is a film that wants to achieve the heights of Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl and yet doesn’t manage to come anywhere close. Filled with dislikeable characters, decisions that no human being would ever make and a plot that doesn’t emerge until the second half this film is a real bitter disappointment. Emily Blunt’s performance is fantastic, but if you want to see Emily Blunt delivering amazing performances then watch Edge of Tomorrow or The Devil Wears Prada and spare yourself from seeing The Girl on the Train.