Does everyone remember Gone Girl? Yes you do, even if it was just because you saw Ben Affleck naked. You know who you are. It was a superb thriller which stands up as one of the best films of David Fincher’s career, which is saying something and actually, it’s one of the best films of the rest of the cast too. It was everything, tense, creepy and with a brilliant twist that still lingers in the memory. Of course with it being a success at the bookstore before reaching the cinema, Hollywood had plenty of books which rode in it’s slipstream to pick from to adapt. One of them is The Girl On The Train, but is it any good?
Rachel (Emily Blunt, Sicario) is a drunk divorcee who is struggling to adjust to her new life. So when she is on the train, she starts to become obsessed with a couple she sees while riding it. However soon after she sees the woman of the couple with another man, she goes missing and Rachel ends up being involved in the investigation to find her.
I just want to make clear, as much as The Girl On The Train did use the success and hype around Gone Girl to ramp up sales, it wasn’t just a pale rip-off. It was a very good book in it’s own regard, perfect for reading on the train ironically enough. It certainly kept me up as I plead with myself, just one more chapter. And for the most part, the plot, the true strength of the book, makes it’s way to the film unscathed. There are a few changes but even Rachel being played by obvious beautiful person Emily Blunt rather than the chubby rather dour person the book portrayed doesn’t really affect things if I’m honest. No, the intrigue is still there and you do always want to what happens next.
However there are a couple of problems with the plot. While the major twist is left intact, and thank god because it is a great example of a brilliant twist which changes the entire way you view the story before it, the film suffers by skipping over some important stuff at the start. For instance, there’s a revelation about why Rachel rides the train and in the book (Wow saying that makes me sound like an arse) this is massive because it breaks the trust between her and room mate Cathy (Laura Prepon, That 70s Show) and eventually sends her to her lowest point. The film has all of this, but it goes way too quickly to have any impact on the viewer. It’s a shame to see such a brilliant part of the book completely wasted.
Luckily, the film manages to get away with skipping over some the plot points thanks to a very talented cast. All the praise in the world has to go to Emily Blunt who manages to make her character likable despite everything. With a worse actor, it could have gone very wrong as the plot asks for Rachel to being a terrible person while drunk, which is most of the time, and as in one of the other plot issues, they skim over the event that triggered it because the pace is kept a bit too quick once again, the only think keeping you rooting for her is that Blunt makes her very vulnerable. She’s obviously the victim, rather than the aggressor. Elsewhere, Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is solid as the grieving widower Scott who switches from heartbroken to angry in an instant very well, while Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) continues to make it clear why she is a rising star as the woman who replaced Rachel.
Now as I’ve talked quite a bit how the film quickly rushes through many plot points, you may think that this is a thriller that goes very quickly and is a bit of a hoot despite it’s material. Well not really, mainly because it’s inappropriate considering the very serious plot. Even though the film does rush through plot points, it does it in such a way it feels very slow in doing that. A lot of that is because there’s two plot points running concurrently, we also see flashbacks of missing girl Megan (Haley Bennett, The Equalizer) before she is taken, and one plot must stop dead for a while so the other can advance. Both plots are clearly defined, which is something considering some of the other films I’ve seen which struggle to do this, but they slow the progress of the other plot and that’s why the pace is a real issue for this film.
And I have to return to the point I made to start the review, the Gone Girl factor. That film was a massive success as David Fincher matched up perfectly to the messed up material of the book, and he managed to get just the right atmosphere from it. That however is an incredibly tough thing to do, as directors have failed to do that even when adapting one of the other Gillian Flynn books, Dark Places. And unfortunately, you now have to add Tate Taylor (The Help) to the list of people who have failed to imitate Fincher as he cannot reproduce that creepy atmosphere. Instead, we get a dour drizzle all the time which make it more like an ITV detective drama than a horrifying thriller. This has been an isuse with many of the Gone Girl wannabes and this is another that falls into this trap.
The Girl on the Train has all the ingredients to be a huge success, a good plot which they only ruined slightly and a cast doing all they can to make this work, but unfortunately it is another that struggled to jump from the library to the cinema. It struggles to keep a good pace going, either skipping through plot points which need more exploration to get their full impact or going too slow and failing to keep interest in the film. It isn’t terrible, as I say there’s a lot of good performances and the twist is well executed, but it could have been a lot better.