Directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”) and featuring a star-powered cast that includes Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon, “The Girl on the Train” is a dramatic mystery thriller based on the No. 1 New York Times Fiction Best Seller of 2015. While this adaptation stays fairly true to the book while making a few changes and creates a suspenseful, graphic experience for the viewing audience, the film may fall short of expectations for some and doesn’t fully live up to comparisons to similar on-screen thrillers such as “Gone Girl. ”
Rachel Watson (Blunt) is a divorced, unhappy alcoholic who rides the train everyday from her home into the city. While on the train, she passes by her old neighborhood and observes her former neighbors, Megan (Bennett) and Scott (Evans) Hipwell, and she fantasizes about their seemingly happy lives. Then one day she thinks she sees Megan engaging in an affair with an unknown man, and she takes it upon herself to get off the train and venture into the neighborhood where her ex-husband, Tom (Theroux), his new wife Anna (Ferguson) and their baby live nearby in Rachel and Tom’s old house.
As a result of her drinking, Rachel blacks-out and forgets what happened, which seems to be an often occurrence for her. But when Megan is suddenly reported missing, Rachel decides to investigate, yet again putting herself at the scene where Megan is believed to have disappeared. Between visiting Megan’s husband looking for answers and her frequent visits to the neighborhood, on top of her heavy drinking, she attracts the attention of a detective on the case, Det. Sgt. Riley (Janney). As the film progresses and Rachel’s memories begin to return, the truth about Megan’s disappearance is finally revealed in a shocking twist.
Having not read the book prior to viewing the film, I knew nothing more than what is shown in the trailers. At first, I was extremely confused, as the film introduces the audience to a number of important characters who are all connected in some way and begins to quickly unveil its sporadic timeline. Sudden flashbacks combined with real time events made it difficult to follow, but as the film goes on, you begin to realize what’s happening. The film basically shows partial events, while flashing back to a related scene or backstory and eventually filling in the holes, as Rachel gets closer to the truth and regains her lost time.
With the number of well-known actors in the film, I expected decent performances and was not disappointed. Blunt and Bennett stand out as two broken woman, struggling with their lives and relationships, and looking for an outlet for their grief, be it drinking or having an affair. Theroux, Ferguson, and Evans perform adequately, while Janney, Ramirez, Prepon and Kudrow have smaller, yet important roles that are likely expanded in the novel. Similar to the timeline, it’s somewhat hard to figure out how everyone is connected in the beginning but becomes clearer as the film progresses.
After doing some research, I learned that like many film adaptations, the movie stays true to the basic plot and characters for the most part but condenses various details of the book as well. Small changes have been made such as moving the setting from London to New York, combining two supporting characters into one, changing Rachel’s drink of choice from gin to vodka, and shortening or minimizing several supporting characters’ backstories or involvement. Larger changes include altering the way certain details are revealed or discovered, creating a new scene altogether, and adding minor details to the ending, all in an attempt to get the point across easier to the viewer.
Overall, “The Girl on the Train” feels like a twisted version of the game, Clue, as the audience and even the characters in the film try to figure out who the culprit is. There is a good amount of graphic, hard to watch content, be it someone cheating with another character, emotional and physical abuse, the loss of a baby, sex and nudity, heavy drinking, violence and much more, that will be very difficult for some viewers. By the end of the film, you will likely either be confused, shocked, or disgusted. There is a lot of misdirection, suspense, thrilling scenes, and secrets revealed, and even for those who say something like this is predicable, you may find yourself being surprised.
3 out of 5 stars.
“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. Running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt. Enjoy the movies!