The Girl On The Train

Director: Tate Taylor (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Calling at all stations to murder via stalking, infidelity and kidnap, this chilly mystery drama still manages to be a very dull journey.

Not afraid to upset the hardcore fans of the best selling book on which it’s based, the setting has been changed from the UK to the US. Yet Brit born and naturalised US citizen Emily Blunt doesn’t mind the Atlantic gap, being suitably downbeat and occasionally manic as Rachel, the girl on the train.

While on her daily commute to New York, Rachel sees what she thinks is evidence linked to the disappearance of a local girl. Megan was a nanny to the daughter of Anna, now happily married to Rachel’s ex husband. Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson form a formidable acting trio alongside Blunt.

Best known as Phoebe from TV’s Friends, Lisa Kudrow’s brief appearance makes you wish you were watching that show instead, it doesn’t help she’s playing a character called Monica opposite one called Rachel. Although always a welcome screen presence, employing an actress whose career has been defined by light comedy jars with the resolutely grim mood.

As a police detective, Allison Janney explains to Rachel and to us, exactly how increasingly preposterous her story and behaviour are. It’s great to have a film with this many dominant female roles.

I imagine the cop character is supposed to represent the perception of the tendency of state authorities’ to victim blame in domestic abuse cases. But such is the far fetched nature of the story, you can’t help but nod along with her unsympathetic incredulity.

These ridiculous plot twists means we can’t take any of it seriously. It fails in every way to be a hard hitting examination of domestic abuse. And taken as a rabid potboiler, it lacks the trashy sense of fun and gleeful malice which made David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014) such an entertaining watch.

Lies, memories and fantasies combine as the silliness unfolds from the differing point of view of the three connected women. We see how they perceive one another is far different to the truth of their circumstances.

The extreme dullness of the villain may well be a comment of the banal nature of everyday evil, but I greeted the unmasking with a shrug of indifference. Plus the silly finale caused giggles at the world premiere, which I can’t imagine is the response the film-makers were aiming for.

The story pootles along through a flat landscape of scenes devoid of big screen spectacle and it feels like a lacklustre Sunday evening TV mini-series whodunnit.

But not one worth missing Poldark for.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

 

Spy

Director: Paul Feig (2015)

The world of espionage will never be the same after this enjoyable action caper smears poo and puke jokes over the glossy veneer of a James Bond parody.

As one-time 007 star George Lazenby once put it: ‘this never happened to the other fella‘.

Following the hugely successful Kingsman (2015), it’s the second Bond inspired movie of 2015. In October we’ll see Spectre, Daniel Craig’s last roll of the dice as the British spy.

It offers big budget foul-mouthed laughs though the blunt-edged comedy of leading lady Melissa McCarthy are more likely to dislocate your funny bone that tickle it.

It’s the third time after Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013) she’s teamed with writer/director Paul Feig but this time the result is less successful.

A nuclear bomb in a suitcase is being touted around the bad guys of Europe.

With key agents incapacitated the CIA are forced to send clumsy back-room computer operative Susan Cooper (McCarthy) undercover.

She is so unsuited to fieldwork she faints at the sight of blood and must fight not only heavily-armed bad guys – but her own inexperience and insecurity.

Decorated with the typical Bond furniture of casinos, helicopters, fast cars and gadgets, the plot moves briskly through the familiar locations of Paris, Rome and Budapest.

As Theodore Shapiro’s music reaches a satisfactory Bond-esque pitch, the action is technically well executed.

However it’s handled leniently by the editor; one explosion is seen from at least seven different camera angles.

If this is intended to be exaggeration for comic effect such as mastered by Paul Verhoeven in Robocop (1987) and John Landis in The Blues Brothers (1980), it’s insufficiently developed.

More likely it’s aping the current trend in editing for repeating the same shot from different angles to exploit the budget for maximum onscreen effect.

Either way it slows the pace and contributes to the generous running time. This lack of ruthlessness in the edit is a big problem and Spy keeps repeating it.

The unnecessary appearance of rapper 50 Cent is another example, as is the weary repetition of an excellent joke about the consequences of having an Operations room in a basement.

There’s a great knife in a kitchen with glamorous assassin Lia (Nargis Fakhri) where comedy and action combine instead of competing – the film would be much improved with more scenes like it.

Jude Law’s champagne swilling tuxedo’d super-spy Bradley Fine offers a glimpse of a James Bond we’ll never have.

The British star is happy to send himself up as the vainest man on the planet but labours under an American accent and a script offering him few decent lines.

Fortunately Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz abseil in with expertly calibrated comic performances and rescue the Americans from a mire of directorial appeasement.

Their deranged performances steal their every scene. Rick Ford (Statham) is a barking mad rogue agent while Aldo (Serafinowicz) is an undercover Italian operative with unsuppressed passions.

It’s fair enough the men are vain idiots and the women do the actual work – but Spy seems overly-pleased with itself for this reversal and the result is more indulgence.

Miranda Hart riffs on her TV persona as Cooper’s dowdy sex-starved colleague Nancy B. Artingstall. She’s a not-so best friend who’s happy to embarrass Cooper in front of glamorous agent Karen Walker (Morena Baccarin in not much more than a cameo).

As criminal mastermind Rayna Boynaov, Aussie actress Rose Byrne dresses up in a cut-glass accent and trashy outfits and commendably commits herself to ridicule in a broad performance.

McCarthy’s a fine and engaging actress who capably charts the journey from put upon underling to confident ass-kicker. But her ad libbing is rarely as funny as the film thinks it is.

A running joke sees McCarthy in a variety of terrible outfits and looking at one point not unlike Dawn French in the Vicar Of Dibley. One or two inspired lines aside, she’s also about as funny.