Film Review: The Girl on the Train (MA15+) (USA, 2016) is a long ride on the tracks

With the hype likening this Tate Taylor thriller to last year’s hit Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train returns to the classic bleak style but without the twists and turns that make the genre interesting.

Adapting a fan-favourite page-turner to the big screen is always a risk, especially when that adaptation involves a relocation from the UK to New York. But with an arsenal of all-star actors leading the murky retelling of domestic murder and a complicated woman too involved in the crime, audiences were optimistic. On the surface, this suspense-thriller radiated the same gloomy vibes as Twin Peaks and certainly the aforementioned Gone Girl and promised tension strung like a piano wire teasing audiences to pluck it. What results is an unfortunate mix of the mesmerizing and the frustrating as it falls just short of the requirements of a thriller.

The thematics and rusty tones are somewhat gorgeous and are as foggy as the plot’s attempt at mystery. The US setting was not as jarring as originally feared, and for the most part the directing was well conceived, however there were moments where Taylor obscurely attempts to create a sense of vertigo or uneasiness through slow zooms or odd focus techniques that mistakenly draw audiences out of the tension and back into the cinema as a detached audience member. And that tension is slow.

Accompanied by a chilling Danny Elfman score that is seemingly one track that lasts the entire film, the suspense is drawn out like watching Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa in real time but knowing exactly what the result was going to be. To that end, there was little pay off for a mystery with almost no red herrings and a conclusion that most of the audience can predict from the get-go. It’s entertaining, and unlocking the chests in the mind of Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a hefty but rewarding task, but the film overall lacks a certain punch that its predecessors, like Gone Girl, had in barrels that justified the slow pacing.

Blunt is no stranger to a broken character, and her performance is commendable as an alcoholic trying to uncover the truth of her relationships both past and present. At times hypnotic, while at other times slightly dragging, it is difficult for any actor to maintain Rachel’s damaged charm throughout her significant screen time however Blunt does so with elegance.

Her all-star cast was not to be outdone, however they enjoyed far less screen time in order to indulge as far as Blunt had the freedom to. Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson both impressed and begged to be taken seriously, as did Luke Evans and all three commanded the scenes there were in. Justin Theroux played his part well but, similar to Edgar Ramirez, their flaws were not in acting but in their one-dimensional characters that didn’t allow as much room to play as their counterparts.

An enjoyable exercise into the psyche of a broken woman and the important venture into issues of domestic abuse, The Girl On The Train is painfully lackluster (and only just). Worth the time and fare but audiences will have to buckle down for a long ride on the tracks, with some pretty views along the way, before reaching their expected station.


The Girl On The Train is in cinemas today



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