The Girl on the Train

This highly anticipated thriller is a major disappointment.
Sarah Ward
Published on October 07, 2016


Imitation may be considered the sincerest form of flattery, but when one movie spends its duration seemingly trying to ape another, it also proves one of the most grating methods of filmmaking. Staring at its grey colour scheme, listening to its moody score, jumping along with its shifting timeline and unpacking its narration-heavy, twist-filled story, there's little doubt that The Girl on the Train is trying to follow in the footsteps of another recent adaptation of a page-turning novel. Alas, this movie is no Gone Girl — although thanks to its own stylistic choices, the comparison isn't going to go away any time soon.

Working from Paula Hawkins' best-selling book, The Girl on the Train intertwines the plights of three women in a whodunnit thriller, while attempting to dissect — and find commonality within — the many roles women are forced to play in life. Sadly, with a flimsy script by Erin Cressida Wilson doing the source material few favours, director Tate Taylor fails to live up to expectations with this hotly anticipated adaptation. Instead, the film alternates between serious and trashy, without finding the right balance between the two.

So it is that alcoholic divorcee and New York-based Englishwoman Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the train every day, staring out the window at people she assumes are happier than she is. In the case of her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby, she knows that's the case. When it comes to their neighbours Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), she's just guessing. But when Megan goes missing on the very same day that Rachel spots her on her porch with another man, questions start being asked. Before long, some of the hardest ones are directed at Rachel herself, who was seen drunk in the area but can't piece her memory together.

Characters peering into the seemingly perfect lives of others is a concept that has fuelled many a movie in years gone by. And yet, you can add a distinctive lack of Hitchcockian intrigue to the list of ways that The Girl on the Train disappointments. Narrative developments are clearly foreshadowed, clichés fly thick and fast, and attempts to bust gender stereotypes remain superficial at best. In this light, even appreciating the film's place in voyeurism-obsessed cinema history offers little solace.

Thank goodness for the quality cast. Whether acting erratic like Blunt, suspicious like Ferguson or furtive and discontent like Bennett, none of the picture's lead actors are quite at their best, but at least they're reliable, which makes them the best thing the film has going for it. That said, when paying close attention to how Blunt plays boozy becomes more interesting than the story itself, you know something has gone seriously wrong. There's an interesting-enough thriller at the heart of The Girl on the Train. Unfortunately, we never get to see it.


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