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The Girl On The Train

The Accountant

October 13, 2016

The Girl on the Train (** ½) R

It’s clear the creative talent behind the film adaptation of author Paula Hawkins’ best selling book The Girl on the Train is attempting to replicate the success of Gone Girl. In fact, the studio has even gone so far as to position the release of the former film in the same time frame as the latter film’s release from exactly two years ago. It’s undeniable that both films have similar themes at play but that’s where the similarities end. While Gone Girl had director David Fincher calling the shots, The Girl on the Train has director Tate Taylor (The Help) behind the camera. With all due apologies, Taylor simply isn’t up to the level of technical proficiency one associates with Fincher’s work. Having said that, the stylistic differences between the two directors are only one of the problems that plague this film.

A big wrongheaded issue at play is also inherent in Hawkins’ original source material. Or so I’m told. Not having read the original novel, I can’t say for sure. Certainly one of the issues plaguing the film is the lack of surprise regarding the identity of the villain.

Emily Blunt in Girl on the Train

I’m told by those familiar with Hawkins’ novel that the problems were there from the get go. As such, the lack of suspense serves as a serious detriment to the film. Had more care been taken as to withholding the identity of this character, the film’s journey might have been much more enjoyable. When you can easily do the cinematic math at the beginning of the film, easily figure things out, the film’s journey becomes a lot less fun in the process. And the journey is supposed to be part of the fun in any endeavor.

What the film does have going for it, and there’s no denying it, is the central performance by Emily Blunt. She’s totally believable in the guise of the film’s main character, Rachel. Blunt always manages to elevate anything she’s a part of and The Girl on the Train is no exception to this rule. It continues Blunt’s seemingly unbeatable streak of great performances.

Rachel is an interesting character to be sure, having become a burnt out drunk after the dissolution of her marriage. This is coupled with her inability to bear children, an unfortunate physical defect that served as a factor in Rachel’s former husband (Justin Theroux) being unfaithful. Rachel takes the said train of the film’s title each day, passing her former home and the home of her former neighbor, Megan (Haley Bennett) on a daily basis. After Rachel spies Megan seemingly having a fling, an event that brings back bad memories, she decides to confront her. Instead she passes out, awakening bloodied and to the knowledge that Megan is missing and maybe even dead. Whether or not Rachel had a part in the girl’s disappearance forms the crux of the film’s mystery.

The film has an interesting structure, showcasing the story from both Megan and Rachel’s viewpoints but, unfortunately, this isn’t enough to keep the audience in suspense. When the mystery is so obvious it would be hard to maintain anyone’s interest. And that includes movie audiences.

The Accountant (***) R

Whatever you might think about director Gordon O’Connor’s film The Accountant, there’s no denying that the film breaks new ground. With that statement I mean that I can’t recall ever having seen a film in which an autistic savant is also portrayed as a superhero of sorts. Ben Affleck is the title character who suffers from what he describes as ‘high functioning autism’ and perhaps there is some truth that his character could function as well as he does in the real world. Still, I found it a little bit hard to swallow that this man, suffering from autism, could go from basically being non-functioning and anti social as a child in the film’s early flashback scenes to being able to wipe out entire groups of villainous characters using a combination of fists and guns in the film’s later scenes. Perhaps the film is just trying to send a positive message to those suffering from autism that you can have the disorder and still be a successful accountant, marksman and pro level fighter, I’m not sure.

Ben Affleck is Christian Wolff, the accountant and as such he brings his usual capable acting chops to bear in the part.

Ben Affleck in The Accountant

There are moments, most of them when he’s taking a respite from beating the stuffing out of the bad guys in the film, that I could actually buy into his character. I guess that’s a testament to his abilities that he sells the part so well and, in terms of his acting abilities, Affleck seems to get better and better as the years go on. Or at least when he’s given the chance to.

As is the case with a lot of people afflicted with autism, Wolff is good with numbers and it seems fitting and logical that he would run an accounting business. His cover is a seemingly normal looking facade of an office located in a small town strip mall. What most folks don’t suspect is that Wolff is also doing double duty as a freelance accountant for some very shady criminal organizations. He funnels the laundered cash that he receives into the other businesses in the same strip mall that his business is located, figuring no one will be the wiser. It’s when Wolff decides to go legit and do business with a seemingly serious client (John Lithgow), a technology entrepreneur, that things take a turn into some dangerous territory. There’s also a subplot involving an employee (Anna Kendrick) at the legit client’s firm who discovers shady dealings, leaving Wolff to come to the rescue once her life is in jeopardy.

The Accountant provides the requisite thrills that one would expect from a film like this and I’m sure it will be an audience pleaser. At least the preview audience in attendance the night of my screening certainly ate it up. My advice would be just don’t expect any semblance to reality whereas the plight of those suffering from autism is concerned.

Both movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and area theaters. 

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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