The year that cinema forgot continues with The Girl on the Train, based on Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel.
A divorced woman (Emily Blunt), drunk and depressed, becomes obsessed with a couple she passes on the train every day. But when she sees the woman (Haley Bennett) with another man, she’s mysteriously knocked unconscious, and the girl disappears. Tedium ensues.
If only she was on Southern Rail, she would never have made it far enough to get involved; if only I was on Southern Rail, I wouldn’t have made it to the cinema. The movie trundles along with the utmost predictability, and it’s like watching a train crashing with the brakes on: slow and painful.
There are obvious comparisons to Gone Girl, but without the ingenious direction of David Fincher, the film feels more like Before I Go to Sleep; a successful novel totally mishandled in transit to the cinema. For some reason, the producers have chosen to approach the piece not as a potboiler, but as a serious drama. This causes all sorts of problems.
Firstly, it brings into focus the nonsensical nature of the plot and behaviour of the characters. In a genre film, we might forgive a couple of coincidences because we’re enjoying the ride. There’s nothing here to enjoy, unless you have a particularly warped attitude to such themes as domestic violence and baby theft.
For a film that places so much emphasis on context, the filmmakers don’t seem to understand context at all. David Fincher, who knows everything about genre, set Gone Girl in a poisonous parallel reality that only partially resembles our own. This gave him room to play with twisted, sadistic subject matter in a way that was thrilling and watchable.
Conversely, The Girl on the Train takes place in a real-world setting, albeit one populated by wealthy, unemployed people who constantly check each other’s emails. They deserve each other. This makes, for instance, the use of alcoholism as a plot device look like you’re just using alcoholism as a plot device; something you can’t really do in a serious drama.
Throw in some dirgy strings, paper-thin characterisation and mediocre melodrama, and what do you have? A trainwreck. To be Blunt.