She’s gone off the rails, but we are definitely on board with the titular character of the girl on the train, played by Emily Blunt who is arguably the best thing about this mystery thriller film. Hotly tipped as the Gone Girl 2.0, The Girl on the Train successfully lives up to about half of its hype but ultimately tries to be something it is not. It half-heartedly captures the very essence of what made the book so popular in the first place and fails to rightfully project it into a persuasive piece of writing on the big screen.
Based on the hit New York Times Fiction Best Seller novel by Paula Hawkins, Emily Blunt is Rachel Watson, a chronic alcoholic burdened with the mental and emotional baggage from her failed marriage with Tom Watson (Justin Theroux). With no purpose in life now, she arms herself with a bottle of her favourite Schweppes gin and tonic water and aimlessly takes her preferred mode of transport (the train) to and fro the city. During the train rides, she forms a masochistic like obsession with a couple, living beside her previous house. She idolizes the pair as the perfect couple, most notably in Megan (Haley Bennett) whom she sees as someone whose romantic life she can only ogle at and crave for.
During one of her daily trips, she chances upon the sight of Megan kissing someone else other than her own husband, Scott (Luke Evans). In her state of drunkenness, she confronts Megan under a tunnel and in the process, blackouts due to the alcohol getting the better of her. Rachel wakes up the next day to find out on the news that Megan is missing and she doesn’t remember a single thing that night. While she tries to uncover the truth behind what happened that night, all leads point to her being the prime suspect.
There is always the fundamental question of any movie adaptation of a book; is the movie better than the book? For better or for worse, the answer is no. Most noticeably right off the bat, Hollywood has done what some may call, the ‘unforgivable crime’ of going against the book’s original setting; changing it to New York for the film instead of sticking to London as described in the book. But the major issue presents itself over time when the show fails to convince us of its events which guide the character’s next course of action and which of course the book does so with relative ease. This can be attributed to the movie’s multiple fragmented timelines, droned on story and choppy writing which falls short of combining its parts into something more believable.
The film however does a brilliant job of putting the audience in the perspective of Rachel by making us feel as hopeless and clueless as she is. She might as well act as a mirror because we completely see our inebriated selves in Rachel, trying desperately to find out any information you can about the night you couldn’t remember anything. And as the film goes on, it makes us even hungrier to find out more, even though you are volatile and unreliable yourself. So when the film gradually reveals bits of her memory that night, it pays off to know what exactly transpired and satisfying to know that she isn’t the toxic monster of a human being she adamantly claims she is. Not the girl she used to be indeed.
For something which has been placed in the same bracket as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train does not paint its themes as astutely as the former. It flirts with its many ideas such as gender and alcoholism, but it is mapped out in a much fogged manner, only existing for it to amplify the script’s touch and go kind of mentality for its more stimulating topics. This is recognizable by how Megan’s character is presented; a manipulative woman with a secret inner affliction at first before turning into a professional nymphomaniac a short while after. That should not be the case at all.
The Girl on the Train puts up an interesting initial journey which will make the most unexcited of people curious as to what the film has to offer. Even then, that train of potential seems to derail after its long-winded set up and frequent timeline jumps which can very easily confuse anyone. Emily Blunt does most of the film’s heavy lifting with her realistic portrayal of a depressed drunkard while other members of the talented cast do all their jobs decently. Just not enough to elevate the film to truly become what it is meant to be; a great Oscar bait.
Directed by: Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up)
Screenplay by: Erin Cressida Wilson
Based on: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez
Running time: 112 minutes