It does not require much invention on our part to determine the factors which have led to The Girl on the Train arriving in the local multiplex. After all, Gone Girl was a huge success for director David Fincher in 2014, both critically and commercially, Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the more baffling success stories of recent years, and here i am referring to the cinematic as well as the literary. We also have the third entry in the Robert Langdon series gracing our screens at the end of this month, and although i did not enjoy The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons, i am excited by the trailers for Inferno which looks supremely silly. Cinematic adaptations may be at the height of their popularity at this moment, but The Girl on the Train is an incredibly dull entry in the mystery-thriller genre.
The Girl on the Train follows a similar narrative device to Gone Girl in that its story is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, and that each of these individuals become increasingly unlikeable as the plot weaves a twisted path through their darkest secrets. At the heart of the film is Rachel, portrayed in a typically excellent performance by Emily Blunt, an out of work alcoholic whose husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has left her to start a family with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Rachel spends her day riding the trains on an imaginery commute to her old job. As she rides the train, Rachel is able to spy on a group of individuals including her ex-husband and his family as well as couple Megan and Scott Hipwell, whom Rachel casts as the perfect couple in her own fantasies. However, the fantasy is soon ripped to shreds when Megan disappears, and as each of the characters secrets begin to emerge Rachel finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery.
If this synopsis appears somewhat chaotic then i have done justice to a film that appears to be confused about its own narrative, or which characters we are supposed to care about. In some ways the narrative thread places the viewer in a similar situation to Rachel as she hurtles around the city aboard the train, we are constantly shifted between different perspectives, in different locations at different periods of time without ever being allowed to stop and react to some of the brutal, or sometimes tragic, events that are depicted on screen. The film has a cold surface which makes it impossible for the audience to care about any of the characters, in fact you may find yourself hoping that the killer will just reveal themselves so you can escape from the auditorium.
It is clear that The Girl on the Train is attempting to replicate the success of earlier adaptations, such as Gone Girl, but it suffers from a jumbled narrative which fails to pull the various storylines into a cohesive whole. Instead it comes across as an anthology feature which has been rather hastily smashed together.