This is one of those films where the trailer does it no justice. After plenty of my friends watched TV spots, they were left confused at what exactly The Girl on the Train‘s plot entailed. Luckily for audience members, this is one train ride that isn’t confusing and has you hooked from the start.
Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, director Tate Taylor (Get on Up, Winter’s Bone) brings to life the fictional tale of how three women — Rachel (Emily Blunt), Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Haley Bennett) — all play a role in a murder case. This murder case, as seen in the trailers, surrounds the mysterious disappearance and eventual death of the young, sex-addicted Megan. Throughout the film, Haley Bennett portrays a woman who deals with a haunting moment of her past by, and I say this based on her character’s dialogue, going from guy to guy without any remorse.
The Girl on the Train opens with long shots of Rachel on the train, passing by the same houses each morning. There are certain color tones Taylor uses when directing each scene, giving the film blue and gray-ish hues to express its mysterious undertone. It added mystique to the cinematogrpahy.
At first, it isn’t known that Rachel’s a drunk, but it’s revealed when her words slur as she attempts to hold a passenger’s baby. I’ve never seen someone down a water bottle full of vodka quicker in my life.
Eventually it is known that Rachel used to live two doors down from Megan and her husband, Scott (Luke Evans). Emily Blunt does a good job of conveying an obsessive, spiteful character. There’s one bathroom scene in particular that is chilling, but does spoil some events, so I’d rather keep the description bare.
One morning, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man, and this throws her for a loop. She goes on a drunken tirade around New York City, sitting criss-cross applesauce in the middle of a park, staring at a statue. It was almost as if Rachel had a perfect fairytale in her head. “You had the perfect life! You ruined it all,” she said during the ordeal.
That’s when things spiral out of control and the story becomes a who-done-it. Anna, the wife of Tom (Justin Theroux), is slowly worked into the picture as we learn of Rachel’s abuse towards the family, and the event where Anna’s baby was almost kidnapped by Rachel. Eventually, we also learn that Tom and Rachel were married and couldn’t have a baby together. There is a unique juxtaposition of events when The Girl on the Train flashes back to moments when Tom and Rachel were together, serving as another way to muddle any conclusion you may draw while watching this film.
I thought the supporting cast did well enough to keep the story interesting. Justin Theroux somehow walked the line of portraying a husband and father … and a cheater in quite a menacing fashion. Luke Evans was eye candy for much of the audience and served as a possible distraction from the murder case. There was always the thought of whether Scott killed Megan or truly had no idea of her whereabouts.
There are passionate moments between Megan and her therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramírez), that show the riske side of this film. There’s a scene where Megan is describing how she pleasures herself, and that doctor couldn’t hold himself back. It’s safe to say the whole patient-doctor relationship was thrown out the window. The wittiest line of dialogue comes when Megan says something along the lines of Abdic being from a part of South America, in which the doctor replies, “No, I’m not. I’m an American Citizen.” It’s a play on how society assumes someone isn’t American if they have a Hispanic name. For shame, society.
At times, the creepiest scenes weren’t a product of the acting or writing, it was the chilling score by Danny Elfman (Spider-Man 2, American Hustle). I turned to my girlfriend in the middle of the end credits and said, “Yeah, can we go? This is freaking me out.” Elfman delivered perfect, low-lying sounds that rang through your mind as tension began to build. Quite phenomenal, and arguably the most shining area of The Girl on the Train.
Now, I didn’t read the novel. I’m not sure if the role of detective Riley (Allison Janney) was fleshed out more in the original work, but this is where the film felt at its weakest. Following the mystery film cliche, the detective shows up for a quick interview to spook the number one suspect (in this case, Rachel). Although, the film doesn’t shift much of its focus on the role of law enforcement, so when Rachel and detective Riley interact, it feels … forced. On the flip side, I guess this is where, like most novels brought to the Silver Screen, it becomes harder to fit in the more specific details.
Another negative was how quickly the film reached its conclusion. It was almost wrapped up too nicely with a fancy, bloody bow. The film clocked in almost at two hours, so I felt there may have been some fat to cut in place of substantial storytelling (ahem, looking at you, Ms. Detective!).
The film is meant to keep you guessing, and it did its job well enough to warrant jaw-dropping moments. And, as my friend turned to me and said once the end credits ran, it stuck true to the source material for the most part.