All photos courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures
Somewhere between Gone Girl and a legitimately captivating psychological crime thriller is THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Not to say that this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel is a wreck, but it isn’t a runaway success either. As compelling as it wants to be, The Girl on the Train meets the minimum requirements to be a fully fleshed out thriller but is hardly a movie that will “shock the world” as the billboards suggest.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel, the titular “girl on the train,” a broken divorcee who spends her days boozin’ it up and riding the train to Manhattan. During her commute, Rachel observes the houses and its inhabitants as she drunkenly gazes out the window. Amid her routine people-watching, she reminisces about her old house – which happens to be on the route – that she shared with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux). Their marriage, we learn, turned into a crazy mess once her alcoholism spun out of control and he felt it necessary to run into the arms of Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who eventually became his second wife.
Rachel randomly becomes obsessed with a couple that also lives on her commute: Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Having absolutely no knowledge of them, she voyeuristically observes their seemingly happy life until one day she sees that Megan may be having an affair. Days later, Megan goes missing. Suddenly, an unhinged Rachel finds herself thrown into a murder investigation that has more to do with her than she thinks.
All the mystery and intrigue sounds great on paper but this adaptation is ultimately a suspense flick that is trying to fill the Gone Girl slot of buzzworthy thrillers among the year’s awards season movies.
There is plenty of crucial beats that the story needs to touch on, which might explain why the first three-quarters of the movie feel methodical and glacial. It’s understandable because, contrary to what the title of the movie suggests, this isn’t just about one female protagonist; it’s actually about three women and how their lives all intersect. Yes, the primary focus is on Rachel, the unemployed casual stalker who spends her days riding the train back and forth from Manhattan while slyly sipping her Camelback thermos filled with vodka. For some, a life like that might sound delightful, but in Rachel’s case it’s truly a tragic shame — one executed brilliantly by Blunt.
The Sicario actress is the shining star in this film, carrying it on her shoulders from beginning to end. Blunt delivers a fascinating performance as an emotionally beaten woman who has lost it all made even worse by the unrealistic hope that she can still piece together the jagged shards of her fractured life. She plays the role of Rachel with heavy doses of desperation and swerves in and out of the unlikable lane with her behavior. At the same time, she manages to draw empathy from the audience. Given her performance, it would have been nice to see the movie that Blunt was striving to sculpt. Ferguson, as the lonely housewife, did what she could with the little she had and Bennett continues to impress as a rising star that is not-quite-Jennifer Lawrence. But it’s Blunt’s performance that commands the screen and is the saving grace of what is ultimately a mediocre psychological thriller.
As slow and deliberate as the pacing is, the film finally gains some traction when Rachel starts to figure things out — which is in the last 20 minutes of the movie. The answers seem to come so quickly that they almost feel shoehorned in, but it’s a welcome relief as the film ties up its loose ends and brings all of the dirty secrets surface.
The Girl on the Train aims to be a smart, gut-punch of a thriller that scrambles your brain and leaves you with your jaw dropped. It doesn’t quite hit the target but comes close enough thanks to Blunt’s performance, the movie’s subtle commentary on the treatment of women by horrible men, and the dangers of drinking while people watching on a train. When it comes to psychological thrillers of this ilk, the movie is a decent ride, but if you miss it, don’t worry – like a commuter train, it’ll pass and another one just like it will come along soon.
Running time: 112 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer