What would you get if you tried to produce Gone Girl without David Fincher?
It is a tough question to answer, given Fincher’s style is an integral part of the film. It is impossible to divorce Gone Girl from Fincher’s steady cam shots and clinical framing. However, The Girl on the Train still makes a valiant attempt to answer. Whatever about the source material, the adaptation of The Girl on the Train is monomaniacally fixated upon that pulpy breakout psychological thriller, constructing another gaslighting murder investigation in desaturated terms to an electronic score that cannot help but evoke the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
However, director Tate Taylor is no David Fincher. Fincher keenly understood the pulpy absurdity of his source material, playing into the ridiculousness of layered twists and double-bluffs that reimagined marriage as some sort of long-form psychological warfare. Taylor fundamentally misunderstands the tone of his film, pitching the forced coincidences and crazy revelations of The Girl on the Train as something to be taken entirely seriously. Gone is the irony that made Gone Girl so effective, replaced with an ill-advised earnestness that refuses to blink.
The problem is not that The Girl on the Train comes off the rails as the overly elaborate details of its storytelling world come into focus. The problem is that it doesn’t nearly enough momentum to reach its destination.