Friday 7 October 2016

The Girl On The Train

Carriage Return

The Girl On The Train
2016 USA Directed by Tate Taylor
UK cinema release print.

Oh dear. You know, I’ve been in a similar situation with a much anticipated movie based on a best selling novel before and I really should learn to trust my instincts more. I’ve only got myself to blame, I guess. I saw the trailer for The Girl On The Train a while ago and, frankly, it looked like a dull, Hollywoodland ‘almost-thriller’ that I could easily bypass as being an unremarkable film. And that’s what I should have done. Instead, just like my previous bad experience with Before I Go To Sleep (which I reviewed here), I bought into the idea that it was a much loved ‘modern classic’ of a novel... or at the very least a phenomenal best seller... and so I squashed my gut reaction and decided to give this one a go. Besides... it has a terrific lead actress and new score by Danny Elfman so... it seemed like the sensible thing to do.

So here I am now living with the fact that I’ve wasted my time on another clunker of a movie when I could, instead, have used that time for some genuine cinematic art... however, as I learned a long time ago, it’s necessary to see the really useless stuff to be able to harbour an appreciation for the good stuff too, so... I guess it wasn’t a completely wasted journey.

The Girl On The Train alleges to be a thriller and, although it kind of comes from an interesting structure in terms of the way it slowly reveals things in the past of the three main female protagonist’s lives in a non-linear fashion, it is still quite a dull movie. Now I don’t mind slow paced films... put me in front of a Russian movie where the highlight of the film is the quick condensation of heat from where a coffee mug had been left on a table and as long as it’s got great cinematography and intrigues me with the way the camera explores the situation, I’ll be fine (and you get an extra point if you can work out exactly which movie I was thinking about there). The pacing on The Girl On The Train is fairly slow but it’s not the problem here.

Neither is the story, to some extent, which looks at three women who find themselves fighting back against male antagonists that subtly, and less than subtly, brutalise them and make them question their beliefs. It’s got a positive message so that’s all good.

And the acting is really sound too, with Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson doing a cracking job and with Emily Blunt playing the title character, really doing some good work here. Blunt has a tough time and is the main focus of the film, giving us an interesting study of a struggling alcoholic which is actually, almost cleverly but, you know, not quite that cleverly, used as a plot point later on in the movie. No problems with any of this and the construction is almost like a giallo in some moments... although it’s a pretty toothless giallo, to be sure. I did find myself wondering, about half way through the movie, what would have happened if they’d have given an old Italian director who used to crank out gialli back in the late 1960s or early 1970s the same kind of material to work with. I suspect it would be a lot less plodding than what we have here.

I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing the book is a lot more gripping than the film, where you can presumably be more in tune with the thoughts of the various characters. Unfortunately, although I totally believe in the ability of good cinema to portray, wordlessly, the inner struggle of the characters on screen in what I call the ‘cinema of reflection’... the director doesn’t really manage to catch that here, I would say.

Everything seems so obvious, to be honest, and I was waiting for some kind of twist to rear itself at the end of the movie to bite me on the backside for being so complacent during the rest of the time but, in all fairness, there is no twist ending. This is literally just a whodunnit kind of movie and, although there are a fair few suspects who might have been able to facilitate the film’s central crime, the killer is telegraphed somewhat early in the set up of the movie, it felt to me, and I was left with a movie going experience which, unfortunately, left me far from the edge of my seat.

Danny Elfman’s score is a bit low key too. It’s far from one of his big, splashy compositions he’s known for and this harkens back more to his scores for smaller movies like A Simple Plan, in some respects, although, certainly within the context of the movie, I found this less enjoyable. That being said, when Emily Blunt’s character starts piecing things together towards the end of the picture, the score’s rhythms and hues come more sharply into focus to heighten the sense of tension that the film is struggling so hard to achieve. I suspect the score is one of those compositions that work better away from the actual 'venue of the imagination' it was initially written for... so it might be worth a pick up on CD at some point.

And that's about all I’ve got to say about The Girl On The Train. Sorry about the short review but nothing else comes to mind. I’m sure the book must be better than this and, despite having a great cast who mostly do a bang up job, it’s not really doing much for me as a movie and I can’t say I’d recommend it myself. I won’t be making the return trip from the same carriage anytime soon.

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