Starring: Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett
Director: Tate Taylor
Running Time: 112 mins
Synopsis: Alcoholic Rachel finds herself enraptured by an idealic couple she witnesses on her daily commute to work, becoming slightly obsessed with them. After Megan (Bennett) goes missing Rachel finds herself embroiled in the ensuing investigation, however she cannot recall any of the events that occurred on the night of Megan’s disappearance.
Adapting a successful thriller novel to the big screen is a tricky act to pull off. How to combine the audience’s who haven’t read the book, and thus do not know the mysteries inner workings, and those who have been privy to the outcome of said mystery. It’s integral to make sure the film offers enough style and directorial nous to compensate for those who may not find any surprises within. Gone Girl is one recent success, offering treats for both readers and non-readers in its controlled sense of ambiguity coupled with some truly shocking moments. Sadly this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s wildly successful book is utterly so-so.
The performances are certainly not at fault. The cast all deliver solid work, with Emily Blunt being the notable standout. She gives her all in a role that is very much against type. She commits fully to this woozy, bleary eyed drunk. Emotionally vulnerable and in a constant state of despair, she captivates throughout. Although there is one cravat, having a lead who is a perpetual drunk with repeated scenes of her weeping and telling troubled stories of her past is just a little bit exhausting. Not to mention the fact the constant boozing and the ensuing haziness of the alcohol consumption have a distinct taste of been there done that. The idea of a drunken Memento style plot has potential but the film does little with it.
As Blunt takes the more showy role the rest of the cast deliver able supporting turns but are not helped by weak material. Luke Evans is a capable performer but his brutish husband to the missing Megan gives him little to play with. Same goes for Rebecca Ferguson as the new wife of Rachel’s ex husband (Justin Theroux), she is solid but the script forces her character to make choices in the final act that are not ably justified. The book may shed better light on her internal motivations but here we get no glimpse of them. Theroux handles some of the films darker material averagely, a late film reveal gives him some potentially interesting opportunities to dig deep but sadly he does not capitalise on it.
The most troubled performance is hot new thing and Jennifer Lawrence doppelganger Haley Bennett as the missing girl. Bennett tries hard but for some reason director Taylor (The Help) asks her to play the role with a detached coldly clinical style. There are story reasons why this is so, but it makes it hard to sympathise with the supposed victim of such a troubled past. After the umpteenth scene of Megan staring into the distance monologing about feeling lost and alone you sort of long for the moment when she goes missing. One emotionally wrenching reveal about her pained past is well delivered but oddly emotionless for the audience.
This listless feel is systematic throughout the entire runtime. Taylor did a fine job on the award favourite book adaptation The Help but here he offers none of the necessary directorial clout to make this film gripping. Scenes have no sense of flow with big reveals falling flat and the Gone Girl emulating flashbacks never slotting in to place with the same grace as Fincher used. The mystery itself offers little new, with even the manipulation of Blunt’s version of events done considerably more effectively in the aforementioned Gillian Flynn adaptation. As for the eventual reveal of who is responsible for Megan’s fate it is a somewhat flat revelation, with only 4 or 5 main characters throughout the roster of potential culprits is small and pretty easily guessable. It’s also a crime that in a film filled with sex and violence barely a moment gets the blood pumping.
The biggest problem, though, is that not one of these people, with their dark proclivities and morally murky actions is likeable. Even the supposed heroine of the story, Rachel, is so damaged and manipulative that it is hard to root for her, with countless moments making you yell at her bad decision making. Also is it too much to ask for a smidgen of humour, even Gone Girl had a gleefully dark sense of playfulness. Or perhaps Bennett’s the only one to truly understand what Taylor was after here, these aren’t real people but cold detached ciphers spouting dialogue.
Verdict: A nuanced Emily Blunt is the only reason to see this truly disappointing thriller, that offers little in the way of actual thrills. This is one train you should’t board.