‘The Girl On The Train’ (2016) – 6/10

the-girl-on-the-train-filmI have recently started writing everyday (as part of a new therapeutic cleanse I am doing). I am trying to discover what my real talent is, and have been told that writing is a great skill, which will help me to gain confidence and clear my head. As I struggle to express myself and love film, I have decided to try my hand at writing film reviews.

I go to the cinema weekly (at least twice a week thanks to my Cineworld membership card), and continually watch documentaries, series and films with my mum at home. Last night, I decided to finally watch the film ‘The Girl On The Train’. This was originally a psychological novel written last year by Paula Hawkins (if you have not yet, read it – it’s wicked), which has been transformed into a suspense thriller directed by Tate Taylor.

I will interject here, and say that I do not want to spoil the plot of the film for anybody (I hate reviews that give too much away, to the point where you feel like you have already watched the film and don’t want to waste time rewatching something). However, I will write a short summary, as this will hopefully allow those who have not yet watched it a chance to make sense of what I am writing below.

‘The Girl On The Train’ is a film about Rachel Watson (a 29 year-old alcoholic played by Emily Blunt) who commutes regularly into New York City via (you guessed it) a train. She is introduced as a woman who has recently lost both her husband (whom she still has strained contact with, along with his new wife Anna) and home within the past 2 years, and struggles to come to terms with this. One night she witnesses something (she is unsure as to what), and awakes to find that Megan Hipwell (a neighbour played by Haley Bennett) has gone missing, and has to try and piece the night back together (in spite of her alcohol-induced blackouts).

I hope I haven’t given too much away…

After watching this film, I have decided to strongly maintain my stance that a film can be based on a novel in terms of its plot, but does not necessarily have to hold true to this, and so should be transformed into its own living thing. Films and novels are both mediums within their own right, and although one may inspire the other, each can have its own artistic merit – after all, what can be told in a hundred pages, can take mere seconds to be captured on screen (and vice versa).

Before watching ‘The Girl On The Train’, I was told that the plot was all over the place, to which I responded ‘just like the book then’. However, although the plot in the book is all over the place in the sense that it was told from different characters’ perspectives, if I had not read the book before watching the film, I fear that I would have been lost amongst all the flashbacks/plot jumps. I am well aware that this narrative technique is intended to confuse the audience and mirror the book (one of the reasons why it is heralded as one of the best mystery novels of last year), but felt that it did this too much and almost diluted the effect this could have had, had it been used less – to the point that parts of the plot were just not clear.

Similarly, some hardcore fans may not like the fact that the book is based in England, yet the film is set in New York, and fear that this Hollywood Americanisation might spoil the film. I, however, feel that this was the right move (cinematically speaking), as the film’s setting and overall cinematography complimented the film’s genre, and reminded me of a classic ‘who done it’ movie – especially with its grand American houses and iconic train motif.

Although the different disorientating PoV shots and close-ups certainly do compliment this setting, I feel that these are inconsistent, interspersed so erratically that they have lost their desired effect of playing with the audience’s psyche (and instead made it feel like a gimmick that was just thrown in as an afterthought for added effect). Nonetheless, this unbalanced composition did give the movie a film noir feel, which I loved, and I know that these techniques symbolise the feelings of the different characters in the film, I felt that these could have been tied together more concisely. Like the plot, this technique had potential, but didn’t deliver in terms of structure.

Like arguably many, I can definitely see parallels between this film and Gillian Flynn’s  ‘Gone Girl’ (a 2012 novel turned into a 2015 thriller directed by David Fincher). Like each book, each film features a missing woman and both are told from the perspectives of multiple characters. It is obviously partially due to the fact that both of the stories’ structures are very similar (in my eyes both novels are still worthy of a read), but also because of the overall finish of the film. There is a stark, depressing loneliness brought to both films via the tone of the picture (its colour and framing), which symbolise the feelings of characters within either movie. Nonetheless, I must say that I am biasedly a Fincher fan (I love his sweeping camera shots), and must say that I preferred the casting of ‘Gone Girl’ to that of ‘The Girl On The Train’ too.

I feel that ‘The Girl On The Train’ was cast wrong, in that the actors involved didn’t suit the characters they portrayed. Now I know that I am being a hypocrite here, and should not have held out on the characters in the film coming to life as the pieces of fiction I crafted from within my head, but I felt that the strong cinematic setting that Taylor creates is weakened by the unsubstantial characters.

I am not a fan of British people doing American accents (I don’t want to appear racist, I just think that it’s hard to maintain a certain accent for a sustained amount of time and that few people can do this well), as it is kind of distracting when an actor that you stupidly associate with a certain voice breaks from this (even if it is just for a split second). Now I know that Luke Evans who plays Scott Hipwell is Welsh (not English), but I feel that not only have I stupidly tarnished Emily Blunt with this generalisation, but I have tarnished him too… There was just something distracting about both of their performances that didn’t quite sit right with me, and all I can put it down to is that they were trying to be American and (for me) it just did not work.

Similarly, because scenes jumped so liberally from one part of the storyline to the next, there was a crucial element missing from certain scenes in terms of acting. The best way to describe this is through the analogy of when a person singings and doesn’t quite hold a note long enough. They move from note to note, abruptly cutting the end off each (not quite nailing a song). This is what ‘The Girl On The Train’ does, which is a movie that has scenes which cut themselves off too abruptly. This is how I felt with Haley Bennett. I liked her in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (which I recently saw and loved – it’s nowhere near as good as the original, but it is still very entertaining). However, playing Megan, I feel like she wasn’t bringing something to the role. Now I am not sure what, but she definitely lacked something, which could be the fact that her scenes were cut and didn’t linger long enough to sustain their impact (I could site examples, but don’t want to spoil the film for anyone).

Therefore, I really enjoyed the film visually, but thought that the cast couldn’t quite bring to life the strong visual characters I had created in my head. The setting was right, certain camera techniques had an edge that I loved, and the colouring of the film definitely suited its genre, I just wish it had been edited differently. It could have been pieced together differently in a manner which allowed the scenes to flow better instead of trying to mirror the book so hard. I did, however, love the soundtrack (Danny Elfman definitely delivered again).






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