Film Review: The Girl on the Train

by Lachlan Anderson

Rated M. Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett. Directed by Tate Taylor.

There’s something really relaxing about sitting on the train. Just you and your thoughts, taking in all the details of the journey. Looking at the trees, rivers and houses that go by. Getting caught up in the murder investigation of some of the people you see from the train. Wait. Scratch that last one. That’s the plot to the new thriller The Girl on the Train starring Emily Blunt.

Based on the hugely successful book by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train centres around Rachel (Blunt) who spends her days drinking and commuting on the train. She fantasises about the ‘perfect’ couple who live in the house she goes by each day. One day she witnesses something shocking in their backyard and subsequently becomes embroiled in an investigation when the woman, Megan, goes missing. Due to frequent blackouts from drinking, Rachel cannot trust her own memory and she may be more involved in the young woman’s disappearance than she thinks.

Given the huge success of Hawkins book last year, it’s not surprising that a film adaptation has made it to the screen so quickly. Tate Taylor’s film follows closely in the footsteps of David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014), another literary adaptation. Girl on the Train however has none of the skilful craftsmanship of that latter film that made it such a compelling watch. It’s a well-shot film, and upstate New York is quite easy on the eyes but like the film’s setting, Ardsley-on-Hudson, it’s a distraction to the less than great stuff going on. Where a film like this invites suspense, and a tonne of red herrings to keep us guessing, Taylor’s film relies heavily on Rachel’s blackouts to create ambiguity, but to little effect.

Credit to a well picked cast, all who have a little time to shine, though it’s Blunt who carries most of the film and her portrayal of an alcoholic at the end of her tether is quite good. She delivers credibility to an otherwise unlikable character, but that is ultimately unhelpful to the progress of the mystery for the viewer.

With a group of characters like the ones in Girl on the Train there is a lot that the viewer gets to think about. Pretty much all of them are in some way pretty nasty people; some much more than others. One thing to think about is the notion of contentment. Most of the central characters are deeply discontent with their lives, which drive them to do some pretty bad things. You can sense there’s a lot of brokenness in all of them. Just like in all of us. The film is a good reminder of how bad our sin really is, but also a good reminder that Jesus offers us freedom from the curse of sin (Romans 6), and a very real contentment.

The Verdict: A moderately good thriller with some stunning scenery and a strong performance by it’s lead. It fails to live up the page-turning suspense of its namesake and largely fails to create a truly surprising mystery. 2.5/5

The Girl on the Train is in cinemas worldwide this week.

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