“The Girl on the Train” is a gripping thriller that tells a story I think everyone watching will be able to relate with in one form or another. Based on the debut novel by Paula Hawkins, the plot points cover divorce, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and infidelity. While these dour topics are common in today’s world, it’s the fantasy that the primary character conjures while watching complete strangers in their own lives that people in today’s social media and Instagram world can identify with.
“The Girl on the Train” does a masterful job of projecting the events in an unusual non-chronological order that not only bounces two and from various points in time but covers simultaneous perspectives from different characters involved.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a seemingly normal woman who struggles with the perils of alcoholism. Rachel has lost her husband and her job, and spends her days riding a commuter rail two and from New York City in a state of inebriation.
Emily Blunt caught my attention in the hysterical comedy “Wild Target“, and as Rachel demonstrates a wide breadth of talent that will see her on Hollywood’s center stage for decades to come. One particularly powerful scene shows Rachel attending her first AA meeting and Blunt conveys such raw emotion you actually feel for her as you witness and experience her pain first hand. Rachel is a character that the viewer can’t help but sympathize with – and that is a testament to the talents of Emily Blunt.
Like someone scrolling through notifications on a social media feed, or a single person watching a seemingly happy couple with a bitter taste of envy pursing their lips, Rachel becomes obsessed with what she perceives to be a perfect couple that reside in a house the train passes by every day. “I just know they know love.” Rachel narrates as she watches the couple embrace on a balcony in the morning and share drinks by a bonfire in the evening, though to her they are complete strangers
Director Tate Taylor blends the multi-perspective aspect as we see events from Rachel’s eyes before the story cuts to Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett). While Rachel perceives Megan’s life as enviably and flawless in love, we quickly see that this isn’t the case. It’s a fascinating exercise in human interactions to watch Rachel view Megan from behind the window of the train, and then get inside Megan’s mind from the house as she takes passing note of the train chugging by.
The bottle keeps Rachel in a constant state of flux and irrational decision-making as she stalks her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) online. “Drunk ex-wives do not make good friends.” Rachel’s best friend (Laura Prepon) jokes.
We see the inebriated Rachel’s sights in a cloudy haze, with the paranoia of fellow passengers seemingly staring at her in chilling fashion. The viewer will get a taste of what the world would look like from an alcoholic. When Megan goes missing, Rachel’s voyeuristic obsession puts her in the middle of a thrilling crime caper that sees her coming to the reality that she must escape the vice of alcohol in order to save others and herself. But as a police detective coldly informs her “You don’t live there anymore. Stay away.”
“The Girl on the Train” is a perfectly tight thriller, and with a run time of just under two-hours you never find yourself bored. Its perfectly acted by Blunt and company, and written in a captivating way that maintains a high degree of suspense, and in Rachel’s case, character likability.
Drinking makes Rachel prone to blackouts, and director Tate Taylor displays these in a truly creepy and ambiguous way as you never really know what Rachel is seeing or doing or when its happening, or if her involvement in Megan’s disappearance is more than meets the eye.
The fall countryside is a thing of beauty as we see the train continue to chug by, the tracks serving as a constant symbolic divide between Rachel’s present state of constant struggles, and the seemingly perfect life she so longs for.
“The Girl on the Train” is a great thriller, and a movie fans of suspense and mystery will love.
by – Matt Christopher