Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Alison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon
Plot: An alcoholic woman (Blunt) spies on a perfect couple to escape her own misery, but when the wife goes missing, she is drawn into suspicion.
Perhaps The Girl on the Train worked in a book format. I imagine the troubled lead heroine, an alcoholic woman who rides a train mindlessly while drowning her liver in vodka, is quite a fascinating one to peel open in a novel. You can really hang onto each chapter, trying to figure out what makes her tick – why did her marriage break down? What has made her relationship with her ex-husband so bitter? Why does she build up such a fascination with the girl she can see from a passing train window? Throw in a tasty murder to try and figure out and the twisting plot must become quite a page-turning read.
The issue is when this idea tries to be converted to film. In cinema, we need a more visual kick. The main problem with Emily Blunt’s alcoholic main character is that she is just too darn unlikeable to spend the movie with. We need a hero we can root for, or at the very least empathise with. The writers keep a lot of Blunt’s motivations hidden for a lot of the movie, most of her actions seemingly drunken whims. Whims are tricky to get across without a handy paragraph aside to explain what is going on. As far as a movie audience are aware, Emily Blunt’s character is simply acting irrationally and doing inexplicable things. The whole movie needs us to understand why she is spying on this random woman who happens to get murdered, but seeing as that core central point isn’t quite conveyed, the story is struggling from the start. As the film gets deeper into its story, it is simply too painful to spend time with a whiny drunk who helplessly complains about her broken life and noses into things that don’t concern her. Her positive actions towards this investigation are coincidental and by no means purposeful moves on her part. In a book, she would come across as the everyday misunderstood hero. Here, she is an annoying lead balloon. This is nothing to do with Blunt’s performance which is admirably dedicated to the cause. Another issue is that as the murder takes place, none of the other characters are too pleasant either. The victim is a mentally unstable woman, left traumatised by a dark event in her past, and now sleeps with anything that moves (read: handy red herrings), cheating on her husband waiting dutifully at home. Mind you, Luke Evans’ husband is hardly an angel, an aggressive, suspicious brute of a man. It is a shame, because we have an attractive cast at hand here, wasted on weak characters. Rebecca Ferguson plays terrified mother. Alison Janney is an under-used detective. The interesting figures like Evans only get to play lip service to their character, merely hinting at depth in true murder mystery fashion. The answer to the riddle isn’t half bad, with some good twists lurking at the end of the story, but with a limp character roster, there isn’t enough heart beating in the script to make it worth caring about.
Final Verdict: A murder mystery that fails to summon up a reason to invest in the story. A pretty fatal error.