Directed by Tate Taylor. Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney
THE PLOT: Since she sees her and her seemingly perfect life from the train as it passes her home every morning, Rachel (Emily Blunt) develops a fascination with Megan (Haley Bennett), who seems to have everything that Rachel wants in life – “She’s what I lost, she’s everything I want to be”. One morning, however, Rachel sees something out of the ordinary, and finds herself drawn into a missing persons case.
THE VERDICT: Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel of the same name, ‘The Girl on the Train’ not only follows the fad of films with the word “Girl” in the title – ‘Gone Girl’, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ – but is a strong thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience guessing.
Emily Blunt is on wonderful form as Rachel. Not only is Blunt’s drunk acting top notch, but she gives Rachel a fire and a fragility that makes the character compelling. Haley Bennett continues her current run of choosing strong roles as the manipulative and damaged Megan, and Rebecca Ferguson, although Anna is a somewhat loathsome character, makes her rounded and watchable. Luke Evans, Lisa Kudrow, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon are sadly underused, but Justin Theroux has a whale of a time with the protective but secretive Tom.
Erin Cressida Wilson’s adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel stays true to the book for the most part, although switching between character perspectives and stories feels a little more clunky on screen than it does on the page. The audience is given a chance to understand the female characters – even though there is an argument to be made that these vulnerable women are taken advantage of in the film, and painted badly – but Rachel is the woman around whom the story revolves. The mystery is carefully built throughout the film, which keeps the audience engaged, and as well as elements from the original story being removed, new characters have wisely been introduced for the film in order to keep it moving.
As director, Tate Taylor amps up the unsettling feel of ‘The Girl on the Train’, which starts from the opening moments, and carefully builds suspense as the story unfolds. The performances are well directed – particularly Blunt – and the pace of the film is well structured, and keeps moving as Rachel tries to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. There are some times when elements of the film are skimmed over and feel unsatisfying, and a certain character’s behaviour in the climactic moments of the film is rather problematic, but for the most part, Taylor has easily made the jump from the gentler ‘Get on Up’ and ‘The Help’ to this taut and engaging thriller.
In all, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is a carefully constructed thriller, with a slight Noir-esque, ‘Gas Light’ feel about it. The adaptation from book to screen is strong and Emily Blunt has rarely been better as she is as Rachel. There are issues with the film – particularly in the final act – but ‘The Girl on the Train’ is still suspenseful and entertaining.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    This year’s Gone Girl is an apt description for The Girl On The Train. The Paula Hawkins novel was a bestseller, though this reviewer prefers to read books after seeing the film adaptation. Maybe just as well. Coming to the story fresh, it’s easier to overlook some of this adaptation’s flaws and one unintentionally funny moment involving a household implement.

    Rachel (Emily Watson) travels to work each day on the train, sitting in the same carriage and spot in order to indulge some fantasies about the lives of others. She watches a beautiful woman, Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans) who seem to have it all. A few houses down, Rachel’s ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) live out their lives with their baby – with Anna having stolen Tom away from her. One Friday night, Rachel stumbles off the train drunk and follows what she thinks is Megan. She then blacks out with no memory of what happened next. An unreliable witness to herself, being a raging alcoholic, Rachel finds herself at the centre of a missing persons investigation, which also involves Megan’s therapist Kamal (Edgar Ramirez). Detective Riley (Allison Janney) is not too impressed, but that’s just the beginning of a turbulent few days for Rachel and the two couples she intersects with…

    It’s easy to see why The Girl On The Train is a hot property. It’s an intricately-plotted murder mystery with lots of red herrings, unreliable witnesses, scandalous infidelities and an acute sense of teasing the audience as much as possible until the big reveal. Tate Taylor isn’t the most obvious candidate here as a director, but he brings the same strong characterisation and efficient filmmaking that he also brought to The Help and Get On Up. There are a lot of different plot threads here, with sub-plots taking on an importance of their own as the film progresses. Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay deftly manages to make each character well-defined and complex.

    The performances really drive the film though and Blunt, as ever, is outstanding here. It’s a revelatory performance which requires her to look drunk, unattractive, difficult and unsympathetic. Rachel’s outbursts and erratic behaviour, which quite literally goes off the rails, make her a difficult character to like. But somehow Blunt manages to pierce through all that and keep the character rooted in the centre of the story, even as other characters take hold on audience sympathies. It’s the kind of unshowy but memorable peformance that gets Oscar nominations. Taylor surrounds her with a good cast too, with Bennett and Ferguson particularly strong.

    There are some flaws here, like the suspiciously under-written male roles and a questionable police detective who takes statements in the ladies room (really?). And yes, that scene involing the household implement. It jars a bit in a decidedly sombre, moody film about the horrible things married couples do to each other. This reviewer came out feeling relieved at not being married (!). Still, The Girl On The Train has enough twists, turns, devious plotting and a powerful central performance to make it a mystery worth wrapping yourself up in. ****

  • dainiux79

    Despite a strong performance by Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train is a middling thriller without much to

  • emerb

    There will be those who have read the novel, “The Girl On The Train” (adapted here for the big screen by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson) and there will be those, like me, who purposely chose to go into the film without having read it. After watching the movie, I think I made a wise move. Given the phenomenal success of Paula Hawkins’ bestseller the stakes were high for director Tate Taylor (“The Help”) in bringing this psychological thriller to the cinema, but I’m happy to report that the result is a solid, glossy thriller which will not disappoint. I had no prior knowledge of the plot except seeing the posters asking “What did she see?” which had me intrigued. Although, after having seen it, perhaps the better question would be “What did she do?” The “she” in question is a deeply troubled and potentially dangerous young woman, Rachel, played with superb intensity by Emily Blunt.
    ‘The Girl on the Train’ interweaves the lives of the three New York women – Rachel, Anna and missing Megan and jumps back and forth in time to tell their stories (the book was set in the UK, but the movie has shifted locale to upstate, scenic New York which might be a sore point for fans). Rachel Watson is a mentally unstable divorcee, a drunk and her life is a complete wreck. In flashback, the movie shows us tantrums, rages, blackouts, all of which led to the breakdown of her marriage. Now, she maintains a daily ritual of commuting to the
    city by train from her squalid room in a New York suburb but the journey has no purpose. She fills her time drinking vodka from a plastic bottle, drawing in her notebook and watching the people around her, particularly the people who now live on the road where she used to live. Her smug ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) lives there now with a new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) who is now the mother of his child. Rachel also becomes obsessed with an elegant blonde beauty named Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) a few doors up who seems to have the perfect married life until one morning Rachel witnesses a scene of infidelity as she sees Megan kissing a man who is not her husband. This sends her into an intoxicated, blackout spiral and, filled with rage, she decides to confront her…. The next morning finds her in a rough state, bruised, muddy and bloodied only to be confronted with news of Megan Hipwell’s disappearance. Rachel, of course, has blacked out what happened, but she’s haunted by an image of herself approaching Megan, raising a weapon. Could Rachel herself have committed a horrific crime or was she witness to one? The deeper she submerges herself in getting to the root of Megan’s disappearance, the more she implicates herself. We empathize with Rachel but she is unreliable, can she be trusted? Suspense builds consistently to a bloody climatic finale.
    The director draws superb performances from his well-chosen ensemble cast. Emily Blunt excels as the broken-down and unreliable heroine of the story. She gives a top class performance of a deeply haunted, wounded woman, blighted by destructive, compulsive behaviour. Blunt has always been one of my favourite actresses and clearly demonstrates her talent in this role. I’d like to think that perhaps she may be recognised for this performance come Oscar season. Bennett, likewise, is excellent and her portrayal of a tormented, confused girl is remarkably vivid and real.
    A thriller peppered with sex, alcohol, violence, intrigue, suspense and tension, this film is bound to be compared to David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”. That’s a good thing and in my view, well deserved praise. Both are based on best-selling novels, both are twisted tales of suburban drama and dark hidden lives. Both feature a number of deviously deceptive characters with a plot that successfully draws you in from the off, keeping you guessing until the climactic end. One aspect I thought was very well done here was the presentation of alcoholism and
    the sheer damage and self-doubt that it can cause. That awful feeling the night after as your drink-addled mind throws up uncertainties and delusions, you may have done or said something atrocious – you’re just not sure. Emily Blunt handled these scenes very well. With this movie, Taylor weaves an interconnected web of lies, deceit, paranoia, possession and betrayal which mystifies you, shocks you, thrills you and chills you. Never quite sure if what you’re seeing is real or imagined, you’re lured into this sordid world and shocked as the slow reveal of the truth presents itself. Sure to be hugely successful, this is a must see and definitely in my top 5 of 2016.