Emily Blunt is painfully miscast in this uninspired and intensely televisual thriller.
The latest blockbuster bestseller to be adapted for film, Tate Taylor’s unfathomably unremarkable adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is true thriller-by-committee: a film so derivative it barely maintains an identity, occupied by characters so one-note they might as well be nameless.
Emily Blunt is the titular passenger, an alcoholic, infertile divorcee called Rachel. That’s all you need to know about her. This story doesn’t dig deep. Rachel rides a train to New York and back every day, obsessing over the strangers she observes out the window. So far, so Hitchcock.
Blunt is miscast in the role, hidden behind a boated prosthethic-laden face and reduced to hideous overacting to convey any trace of personality. She staggers drunkenly on the streets, steals babies from their mothers and is generally an unpleasant- if tragic- protagonist. Her female co-stars fare no better: Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson, the two other sides of a peculiar trio, lack the scene-stealing ability of Hitch’s blondes and fail to inject any intrigue into their characters.
For a film that focuses on women, The Girl on the Train has little interest in them- surprising considering the strong exploration of female relationships in Taylor’s 2011 The Help– and the most memorable performances come from the reliably charismatic Justin Theroux as Rachel’s long-suffering ex-husband, and Édgar Ramírez as a ‘sexy psychiatrist’.
This film, like the novel it was based upon, is Aldi-brand Gone Girl, emulating that story’s unique sensibility with none of its ingenuity or fascinating gender politics. Its central mystery is uninspired and unengaging; it’s hard to invest in such an unappealing group of people. None of the women in Train come close to Amy Dunne’s level of profound character complexity, nor can Taylor (who directs with all the ambition of a Dick Wolf procedural) even aspire to David Fincher’s distinct visual vocabulary. With a weaker set of actors, The Girl on the Train would be overwhelming televisual. Television is where it belongs.