Arts movie review

Well, that was an interesting train ride

The Girl on the Train, best-selling book turned movie, debuts in theaters

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Tom (Justin Theroux) and Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) in DreamWorks Pictures' The Girl on the Train from director Tate Taylor and producer Marc Platt.


The Girl on the Train

Directed by Tate Taylor

Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux

Rated R

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Looking through a train window and wondering what’s going on in the houses that we pass — it’s something that we’ve all done. The Girl on the Train digs into this curiosity, and follows Rachel (Emily Blunt), a 30-some year-old alcoholic who rides the train every day to do just that. She stares out the window to watch a seemingly happy couple enjoying themselves on their porch at 15 Beckett Road, narrating that “they’re everything I want to be.”

But she’s soon catapulted into the thicket of an investigation when the woman from the porch, Megan (Haley Bennett), disappears. We learn that Rachel’s life actually intersects with portions of Megan’s life: Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), actually lives a few doors down from Megan, who babysat for Tom’s wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).

The film maintains most elements of the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins upon which it is based. To achieve the effect of the book’s first-person narration, the film rotates the perspective and narration between Rachel, Anna, and Megan. My main surprise from the transition from novel to movie was Blunt’s portrayal of Rachel’s alcoholism — in the novel, the first-person narration forced me to pick up clues that Rachel had an alcohol problem, while in the movie, Blunt makes it obvious from the first few scenes that her character is an alcoholic. At times, Blunt’s portrayal of the alcoholism feels overly zombie-like, but overall, she has a solid, emotionally charged performance.

The plot benefits from the audience’s mixed feelings about the story’s “protagonist,” Rachel. She’s not the hero, or the typical “good guy” character we’re so used to cheering on during a film. Instead, Rachel is a character who blacks out, shows up to people’s houses at inappropriate times, and loses her temper. Her imperfections keep us on our toes, guessing at what the next twist in the plot will be.

The pace of the film is well-balanced, drawing out just enough suspense without wasting unnecessary time. Using a series of flashbacks that are fragmented and repeated, The Girl on the Train feeds information to viewers little by little, inviting them to piece together the mystery themselves. If you’re looking for a juicy thriller, this one checks off quite a few boxes, with jealousy, love, betrayal, and a hint of murder all jammed into a couple of hours.