January 21, 2017


Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon. Directed by Tate Taylor. (2016, 112 min).

Man, talk about your unreliable narrators...

Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) is a lonely woman who commutes by-train every day, passing her former home occupied by her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their infant daughter. But lately, she's been more fixated on the house a few doors down, where a young man & wife (whom she doesn't even know) appear to have the perfect, happy life she longs for.

Meanwhile, we learn the woman, Megan (Haley Bennett), who just quit her job as Tom & Anna's nanny, is not happy. When Rachel sees Megan in the arms of another man on the patio as the train passes, she is devastated. When Megan disappears a few days later, Rachel feels compelled find out what happened to her. However, since Rachel has a history of harassing Tom & Anna, she's also a potential suspect.

Rachel's also a raging alcoholic and prone to blackouts, so not only does she often question herself, so does the audience. We are never certain we can trust her account of events, past or present, especially after she wakes up from her most recent blackout covered in blood. And as the plot's layers are peeled away little by little, we learn not to trust any of the main characters. It's a solid - if somewhat familiar - premise for an entertaining mystery-thriller.

"Yeah, that was the last train, but this isn't Clarksville."
The Girl on the Train is, of course, based on the hugely popular debut novel by Paula Hawkins. While I haven't read it, apparently everyone else has, so maybe one of them could tell you how faithful it's been adapted. A lot of critics were decidedly unimpressed, but I found the film quite compelling, boosted in large part by Blunt's remarkable performance in the title role. Rachel is a sad, pathetic character whose misery is mostly her own doing - or so we're led to believe - yet Blunt has us empathizing with her anyway.

If someone like Hitchcock were around today to dig his devious claws into this material, we'd probably be looking at a modern classic. While director Tate Taylor is no Hitchcock (or even Brian DePalma in his prime), The Girl on the Train is a pretty solid thriller. As mysteries go, it probably plays its hand a bit too soon, but there are enough interesting plot twists along the way to keep things interesting, especially since we never entirely trust what we're seeing.

FEATURETTES: "The Woman Behind the Girl" (about adapting the novel, featuring the author); "On Board the Train" (making-of).

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