Paula Hawkins’ watercooler thriller The Girl On The Train garnered stratospheric readership upon its release back in early January 2015, the immersive page-turner rapidly became the most scintillating whodunit since Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (to which it’s frequently compared).
Every tube car, street corner and airport lounge saw a sea of nose-deep bibliophiles eagerly consuming Hakwins’ source novel which eventually amassed sales of 11 million worldwide. Rattling along the idyllic outskirts of middle class suburbia (on the Metro North Line), anguished divorcee Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) silently sups from a vodka filled beaker whilst vigilantly gazing at the white picket houses of her former neighbourhood during the twice daily Manhattan commute (the locale of the film switching from London to New York).
Weaving a three strand narrative, The Girl On The Train utilises the untrustworthy testimony of a flawed trio: alcoholically reliant Rachel, restless siren suburbanite Megan Hipwell (Hayley Bennett) and stressed new mother Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson) the second wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).
Increasingly infatuated with textbook couple Megan and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans) Rachel projects her longingly dashed hopes onto the pedestaled duo as she steals fleeting unblemished snapshots of the coffee drinking, love-making duo. Voyeurism is the one constant companion in Rachel’s life when not prone to fits of jealousy, drunken blackouts and alarming memory loss.
The pivotal location is transposed from the book’s Victorian terrace dense London to an autumnal estate strewn New York in a bid to lure a more inclusive international audience. Director Tate Taylor (Get on Up, The Help) and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) otherwise stay stringently faithful to Hawkins’ original material which will undoubtedly satisfy literature fans.
Blunt’s committed titular performance as the self-destructive heroine is constructed with brutal authenticity, reflected in Rachel’s trademark mascara smudged eyes which are frequently etched with grief-stricken melancholy. Blunt excels in underlining the humane vulnerability of intoxicated paranoia and raging addiction, with a cognisant insecurity that is unnerving to watch at times.
Director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen captures a gritty morose atmosphere through a swirl of anonymous lamp lit streets, unromantic train cars and confrontational close up shots which generate a never ending sense of intimation and threat. Danny Elfman’s adventurous score is a soaring highlight using synthetic sonic currents that instantly become the tonal heartbeat through the film’s duration, which is worlds away from his characteristic Burton-esque melodies.
Pinching micro fragments from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Agatha Christie’s 4.50 From Paddington, The Girl On The Train fails to harvest the primitive darkness needed to release its full visceral potential as the narrative remains bleakly superficial at times. Yet although it derails slightly towards the second act, The Girl On The Train ultimately delivers vivid performances through a blurry haze of deception. All aboard.
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