The Girl on the Train Review


When dealing with a traditionalist whodunnit thriller, and a film specifically designed in such a way that it’s all leading towards the inevitable reveal, which edges ever closer as you progress throughout this convoluted narrative, the viewer’s entry point is so vital. Tate Taylor, for the second time in succession following his James Brown biopic Get on Up, is using an unreliable narrator, as Emily Blunt’s Rachel Wilson represents a volatile source, as we peer into this murky murder mystery through the eyes of an destructive alcoholic.

Based on Paula Hawkins bestselling novel, and adapted to the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson, we meet Rachel, immersed in the lives of others, creating stories for those she journeys past every day on her commute to work. One couple in particular, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans) fascinate her, perhaps due to the fact they live just a couple of doors down from her former abode, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) still resides, with his new partner Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their young child.

Drinking to soothe the pain, Rachel has a habit of calling Tom on a regular basis, even going so far as to get off the train early and attempt to make contact in person. It’s this very act which sees Rachel caught up unwittingly in an investigation concerning the recently disappearing Megan, and as Rachel awoke the morning afterwards with no memory of what happened, with a bloody shirt and a head wound, she is unable to say for certain she had nothing to do with the crime, desperately trying to rack her brains to figure out a solution, as Officer Riley (Allison Janney) conducts her investigation.

Taylor presents this narrative in a distinctly disorientating fashion, as we adopt the haphazard perspective of the protagonist, enriching the film’s elusive nature, as we become as confounded as Rachel is. An indelible atmosphere has been created by the filmmaker too, as there always seems to be a mist in the air, as you can’t help but wonder just how many smoke machines were used during the making of this production. It all informs the mystery that lingers, helped along by the somewhat complex, and yet effective non-linear approach to storytelling, as the story is told through flashbacks, with some we even revisit more than once, from a different angle, breeding rather contrasting conclusions. We’re left to piece this puzzle together, constantly changing our minds about certain characters as we progress.

The one constant, however, is the quite remarkable performance by Blunt, who takes this somewhat generic thriller and transcends expectations, bringing such a palpable degree of empathy to the role, which is essential, particularly when we fear she may have had something to do with Megan’s disappearance. Blunt manages to play an alcoholic with such subtlety too, finding the nuance in this disease and avoiding the overtly theatrical, and cliched depiction of a drunk we’ve seen so many times on the screen before. She feels like something of an outsider too, which is where the one main comparison between the film and novel comes into play, for the latter is set in London, where the film is set in New York. However Rachel remains British, and as such becomes a foreigner in this land, and that adds a certain underdog status to her demeanour that differs from the depiction of the character we had originally grown accustom to.

But for a film crafted and manipulated to lead up towards the grand finale, it’s here where the biggest flaws remain, as a truly underwhelming final act which undoes much of the good work that preceded it. Of course that’s all we can say on the matter as anything else would be deep in spoiler territory, so give this film a go and find out for yourself – it’s not perfect, but undoubtedly worthy of a watch.