It's Gone Girl, except...it's not
The Girl on the Train is a mystery thriller film based on the book of the same name by Paula Hawkins. The movie is directed by Tate Taylor and stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, and Lisa Kudrow.
Rachel Watson (Blunt), a troubled alcoholic who divorced her husband Tom after learning he was having an affair, rides a train to and from work everyday. She watches various people that go by her while riding on the train. Rachel is especially intrigued by Scott and Megan Hipwell, a seemingly made-for-each-other couple that live right by Rachel's old house. One day, Rachel notices something peculiar out of the train window, and shortly afterwards, Megan goes missing. Rachel tries to learn more about what she saw, while the authorities begin to suspect that Rachel is somehow involved.
I have not read the novel by Paula Hawkins, so I will not attempt to make any comparisons from the film to the book and vice versa. The way the film hypes itself is as a shocking murder mystery, filled with lies, cheating, and deception. You'd be disappointed to find out that in reality, The Girl on the Train rides along as a middling soap opera that happens to have some minor thrills sprinkled on top. Yes, there are lies, there is cheating, and there is some deception, but it's all at the expense of creating a dark love tale between several people, instead of examining deep and intriguing psychological disturbances. The men are not much more than lustful playboys, and the women get so emotionally overwhelmed that you might think you accidentally stumbled upon a spin-off General Hospital episode.
If this film is trying to be another Gone Girl, then it completely misses the mark when it comes to the psychology and motivations of its lead characters. In Gone Girl, Amy Dunne makes her husband's life a living hell, but it's not simply because she's a sociopath. She has a reasonable motivation, and she does abnormal things to herself to get what she really wants. Emily Blunt's Rachel just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she can not afford to let her curiosity go unsatisfied. The only psychological trouble she really has is her inability to lay off the vodka and bourbon.
- Emily Blunt's Oscar-worthy performance. I am quite confident that Blunt will at least catch a glance from the Academy as they prepare the nominees for next year's Awards. Blunt terrifically presents Rachel as the drunken mess she really is. Her stumbling, drunk walks and corresponding slurred lines perfectly resemble how someone like Rachel Watson would walk and talk. Blunt is the glue that holds everything together, managing to prevent the film from being a total disaster.
- The use of flashbacks. Tate Taylor seemed to decide that the movie should play out as a series of flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks lead us to believe one thing is true, only for the same flashback to be re explored later, where we are told, "No no, THIS is what actually happened." Sometimes, we appear to be in the present watching Blunt or somebody else, and then the next moment we are projected into another flashback, abruptly going to a different part of the non-sequential story. I recall one instant where we had a flashback within a flashback (flashback-ception?). It's normal for a film to be told as one long flashback, but Girl on the Train insists on picking and choosing random parts of the story to show as flashbacks with little rhyme or reason.
- The anticlimactic twist. The supposed twist that comes in the third act of the film doesn't shock you the way the twists in The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense would. The best reaction it might get out of you is an "uh-huh." The film tries to play like a whodunit, but when you actually learn whodunit, you could probably see it coming from a mile away.
The Girl on the Train features a very memorable Emily Blunt performance, but the movie is too heavily melodramatic and quite lacking in the thrills and suspense. I won't deny that the book was "the thriller that shocked the world", but the film adaptation definitely does not deserve such a compliment.
Recommend? No, unless you've read the book
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: