Directed By: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt,
Review Author: Adam Monks
Rating: 2.5/5 glasses of wine…then a trip to AA.
If staring at women on public transport is a habit of yours then go see this movie. You will legitimately never want to make eye contact with anyone on a train again. You’ll end up treating every trip like one on the red Luas line- just keeping your eyes down and trying not to get sucked into a crime.
The Girl On The Train is an adaptation and treatment of a book, which always brings its own set of hurdles and predispositions from the audience. If this isn’t the first review you’ve read of it then you will already know it hasn’t received an overwhelming wave of applause from people. Sitting through this though, I enjoyed it. I was on the edge of my seat…and then I realised why it’s getting bad reviews. But before I analyse it, I have to open with the strong points.
Emily Blunt is absolutely show-stealing in it. She had a task that I’ve only really ever seen one other actor get right before- playing an alcoholic. Much like Denzel Washington in Flight (2013) she absolutely nailed the subtle physical cues needed to convey a drinking problem. Obviously make-up and the like played its part in her ‘look’ and the director does a terrifying and eye opening job at showing you the gaps in days caused by excessive drinking. The editing and direction alone would make any actor convincing as an alcoholic but Blunt really takes it to the next level with the mood swings, the twitches and the bipolar breakdowns. I am still reeling by how good her portrayal was.
The story itself is almost a carbon copy of Gone Girl, in format anyway. Mystery, blocked information, character intros and narrations really are taken straight from that movie- even the way in which the information is revealed and teased out is almost exactly how Gone Girl did it. Teasing you, putting someone in the crosshairs, then revealing more of the event and more of another character until you get a patchy jigsaw built before your eyes that leaves you just simply asking yourself- who did it?
I loved that, I don’t even care if it’s not original because it’s enticing, and it’s exciting to watch. The brain likes puzzles and this is one being solved before your eyes. For the first two acts, this is done absolutely perfectly and the pacing is just what you need to not overthink one character too much and not lose sight of the overall picture. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into each block and it plays out its exposition just like a book would, almost chapter by chapter.
Another film it takes a lot of direction from is Side Effects with Jude Law (2013), this is another one of those films that shows you an end result at the start and slowly works backwards in a way that makes you think everyone is guilty at one stage or another. Much like this film its a dark and twisting phycological thriller- Side Effects is by far the superior film to this one and I would strongly recommend it if you’re looking for the sort of thing to make you feel like a detective while you watch it.
So at this point, like I was in the film when I’ve made all the observations I’ve made you might be thinking- so where’s the downfall? Why don’t I hate this yet? everyone else seems to…
Here you go, it should have quit while it was ahead. When you have a story that slowly gets more complete as time goes on, you have the opportunity to make the audience think something new about each character in the context of the event at every new chapter/scene. The film was doing this fine and had done a complete lap of every main suspect. Until it went too far; and started going around again, and again, and again to the point where it was just concentric circles going ever inward and taking too many liberties with the information that you don’t have yet.
So it starts running away a bit with itself, had it skipped about 20 minutes towards the end and kept the story believable this would be an absolute hit- you get enough twists in to keep it exciting and still give people some doubt about the true murderer. But this goes too far and takes that away from you. Gone Girl, and Side Effects knew when to stop- this didn’t.
The other major area this film lost points from me in was the over the top violence. Not only is it not needed, but it cheapens itself with some of the choices that are made about blocking, framing and pure gore. I was less scared of the who the true killer turned out to be because I was exposed to ‘horrific’ scenes when you finally see what happens. Had the angle been different and the ‘less is more’ approach been followed I would have been far more unsettled by the violent parts. But instead the director decided what I should see and left nothing to the imagination. Leaving me not only desensitised but put off by the cheap shock. It’s not needed. In a horror film you’re always more scared of what the monster might look like, when you finally see it in full, it’s able to be shown more as the film goes on because it’s lost its potential horror.
So it goes a bit too far and cheapens itself with violence. Other than that though, it’s tense. It’s enticing and its very seductive.
It reminded me why I love films. I was sitting still in a dark room with 200 other people, technically not doing anything; and I was completely and utterly sucked into a new world, made feel scared and uncomfortable and transported somewhere else. Films are one of the few things that can do that and I had forgotten that feeling existed. It’s perhaps one of the better things in the cinema this October/November and it will get the blood pumping so by all means ignore the critics (except us) and go see it. If you’ve seen it and you enjoyed that format of film then I would absolutely recommend Side Effects.
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I would also like to take this opportunity to announce a whole slate of comic and animated based content coming up over the next few weeks by our newest guest writer Shaun Young, some of his work has already been posted here. Also a heap of horror reviews are on the ways as Halloween is so close. Have a read and subscribe for more.