The Girl On The Train more layered than Gone Girl; After The Storm is a tragicomic family drama

The Girl On The Train is more layered and interesting than 2014's similar marriage murder mystery, Gone Girl

The extraordinary thing about The Girl On The Train(M18, 113 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3.5/5 stars) is that the hype around this bestseller-turned-movie has not lessened the story's ability to deliver a punch.

Fuss has been made about this being the next Gone Girl (2014). While it is true that both were born from novels about murder within marriage, this story is more layered and interesting.

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is the ex-wife of Tom (Justin Theroux). On her daily commute, her train passes the house of a handsome couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), who seem in love. Rachel is infatuated with them until she sees something alarming from her carriage.

The story escalates into a whodunit. Director Tate Taylor (The Help, 2011), working with a screenplay adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, 2002), spools out the plot through Rachel. When she knows something, the audience knows it too, with the added twist of her being an unreliable source.


Haley Bennett stars in The Girl On The Train (above), Tsukiji Wonderland offers portraits of tradespeople in the Tokyo market, and seas and rivers run red with blood in Operation Mekong. PHOTO: UIP

This is a tough job, tougher than the one set before director David Fincher for Gone Girl. But Taylor handles the exposition with grace, while shading the characters of the women at the centre, Rachel and Megan, both of whom, if mishandled, would have been insufferable soap-opera cliches.

"Why would I want new friends at my age? It only means more funerals," grumbles the widowed grandmother in After The Storm(PG, 117 minutes, opens tomorrow, 4/5 stars), which offers family drama of a different variety from that in The Girl On The Train.

Family drama After The Storm stars Hiroshi Abe (left) and Taiyo Yoshizawa.
Family drama After The Storm stars Hiroshi Abe (left) and Taiyo Yoshizawa. PHOTO: GAGA CORPORATION AND LUNA FILMS

This film sees celebrated Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda coming back to members of a family reuniting, each pressing the others' buttons to tragicomic effect.

It is a theme he explored in the much-loved Still Walking (2008). People don't change, says Kore-eda, but because they think they can - and that they think others can too -  they get up in the morning.

Hiroshi Abe is Ryota, a washed-up novelist barely holding down his grubby job of private eye. The women in his life express disappointment in him, from his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki), who has custody of their son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), to his mother Yoshiko (the excellent Kirin Kiki who, like Abe, appeared in Still Walking).

Everything builds to the storm in the third act, when a forced reunion is thrust on the fractured brood, but that would be to give too much weight to the plot. This work is all about small truths.

These tiny moments, reflecting what it means to be a human, happen between a husband and his bitter ex-wife. They also occur between a mother and a son who thinks he is as useless to her as a tree that cannot bear fruit, and between her and a father desperate for their son to grow up to be a better man than him.

Cooking is a metaphor in After The Storm ("The longer a stew sits, the more flavour it develops, just like people," observes grandmother Yoshiko).

But in the documentary  Tsukiji Wonderland(G, 110 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3/5 stars), Japanese food is examined in a more literal fashion.


Haley Bennett stars in The Girl On The Train, Tsukiji Wonderland (above) offers portraits of tradespeople in the Tokyo market, and seas and rivers run red with blood in Operation Mekong. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

Tsukiji market in central Tokyo is the world's largest seafood sales hub. Director Naotaro Endo takes viewers deep into the labyrinth to see how the machine works and also offers portraits of tradespeople.

Because of Tsukiji's long history - it dates back to the early 20th century - and the scale of its operations, Endo offers only a skim. The tuna auctions alone could be worth a 90-minute investigation.

Endo gets sushi legend Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (2011) fame to offer a glowing testimonial of the spirit of the market's stallholders; celebrity chef Rene Redzepi also heaps praise, from the point of view of a Westerner mightily impressed by the Japanese work ethic and attention to detail.

Endo avoids food porn; there are few lingering shots of glistening slabs of otoro (tuna belly) or squirmy things bound for the pot. His detached, somewhat scholarly approach, however, perversely causes the viewer to yearn even more for a nice sashimi platter after the show.

Seas and rivers run red with blood in China-Hong Kong production Operation Mekong(rating to be confirmed, 124 minutes, opens tomorrow, 2.5/5 stars).


Haley Bennett stars in The Girl On The Train, Tsukiji Wonderland offers portraits of tradespeople in the Tokyo market, and seas and rivers run red with blood in Operation Mekong (above) . PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

This action-thriller is based on the aftermath of the 2011 massacre of 13 Chinese sailors by warlord Naw Kham, a notorious figure controlling the drug trade in the Golden Triangle.

What might have been an intriguing look at the politics of cross-border law enforcement in South-east Asia is a sleek, empty parade of military hardware.

Respected Hong Kong director Dante Lam has not thrown out nuance and historical accuracy, he has crushed them and booted them into outer space.

He throws fistfuls of cash into the action - there are car chases on roads and a car crash in a shopping mall. There is also an attack on Naw Kham's jungle lair that resembles World War III.

But the rest of the story brings to mind a Mission: Impossible knock-off.

Too bad there was no money left over to make the moustache and facial prosthetics of undercover cop Fang (Eddie Peng) look less like Halloween buys from an everything-$2 shop.

The extremely capable Chinese actor Zhang Hanyu is also wasted as the captain of the Chinese narcotics team. Each member is of course selfless, patriotic, hard-working - and extremely forgettable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'A train ride to catch'. Print Edition | Subscribe