The Girl on the Train Movie Review: Emily Blunt in Psychological Thriller

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The Girl on the Train (2016) Review
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans

The Girl on the Train is a missing persons mystery that manages to be somewhat satisfying despite the lack of genuine thrills.

Adapted from Paula Hawkin’s novel, The Girl on the Train is about psychological manipulation.  It reveals how memories and perception is impacted by isolation, abuse and emotional anguish. The story is a deeply troubled portrait of female characters primarily told from an unhinged woman’s point of view.  

Rachel (Emily Blunt) describes herself as having an overactive imagination. She imagines about the lives of people she sees each day as her train passes by their house. In particular, she has an unhealthy fixation on a married, amorous couple. When the young wife goes missing, Rachel is driven to find out what happened and in the process must confront her troubled past.

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The Girl on the Train’s strong point is building tension through an unreliable narrator. As more about Rachel is revealed, it calls into question if what she sees and remembers is at it seems; if she can be trusted and if she can trust herself. Rachel is the key figure and the hardest character to pull off. Emily Blunt’s performance is superb. Her emotive facial expressions brilliantly capture a flawed, depressed woman who can be both a little pathetic and sympathetic at times.

While director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) maintains an adequate suspenseful tone, The Girl on the Train falls short of the movie’s tagline, “based on the novel that shocked the world“. That isn’t to say there aren’t some good reveals and the tension does gradually ramp up in places, but the twist doesn’t land as hard as it needs to in order to push the story to another level.

There are a few other shortcomings which are very noticeable. One is that the screenplay doesn’t provide Anna’s (Rebecca Ferguson) backstory and as a result she’s underdeveloped. In the novel she’s one of the primary point of view characters. The second is that there is a glaring oversight in the missing person investigation, a detail that could have solved the case quickly. And thirdly, the climatic sequence isn’t set up well and isn’t executed with enough precision.

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Despite Rebecca Ferguson not having enough to do, the cast is quite strong. Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Allison Janney deliver solid performances and are a good fit for their respective roles. The film’s second strongest performance belongs to Haley Bennett as Megan, the missing wife. Megan embodies many of the film’s reoccurring themes. On the surface of things we can project our ideals and fantasies on to her, yet dig a little deeper she isn’t as she seems.

The adapted screenplay revolves around a number of subjects including self-identity, substance abuse, gender roles, betrayal, lies and how it all affects the way we perceive memories. The most unforgettable aspect is arguably Emily Blunt’s terrific performance. However, there’s been better visualized and executed films of a similar nature in recent years, a couple of them directed from David Fincher. The Girl on the Train is a serviceable psychological mystery that neither goes off track nor becomes a seductively engrossing thrill ride. 

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About Eddie@Jaccendo

Movies, TV shows, comics, and video game news & review.

Posted on October 6, 2016, in Movies, Review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I am a fan of the book and was really disappointed with the movie, although you’re right about Emily Blunt’s performance. Though the three narrators worked really well in the bok, I would have rathered they focus more on Rachel in the movie and spent less time with Haley Bennett’s character, whose flashbacks lend themselves better to novels than to movies.

    • Hi Matt. I haven’t read the book myself, but based on a lot of reaction people in general felt let down by the movie. I didn’t think it was that bad, maybe in comparison with the book it didn’t work well. I really did like Emily Blunt’s performance and she carried every scene she was in.

  2. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but the concept sounds intriguing. Good review!

  3. I’ve read several reviews that have been in the middle with this film. I love Emily Blunt and hoped it would get her the attention she deserves. Good to hear she delivers.

    • Hi Keith! I think fans of Emily Blunt will be impressed with her performance here. It’s the strongest part of the movie for me. It sounds fair enough about the reviews this film’s been getting. It’s worth a watch on home video. Thanks for the comment and remembering me lol.

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