Review by David Baldwin or Mr. Will Wong
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic divorcée who commutes to work on the train every day. She likes to watch the houses and the people who live in them as she passes by a particular road. When a woman goes missing from one of the houses, Rachel inserts herself into the investigation – and it creates a devastating ripple effect for nearly everyone else around her.
Despite having ample time to read Paula Hawkins’ bestselling Novel, I literally finished the last page of The Girl on the Train five minutes before the Film started. While it is easy to compare the Novel and its structure to Gillian Flynn’s magnificent Gone Girl, this Girl is its own dark, waking nightmare. It is a twisty Thriller that keeps you guessing until the end, mainly because its main character Rachel is an unlikeable and unreliable drunk whose animosity with her ex-husband’s new wife fuels a rather large chunk of the Book’s storyline.
Flash-forward to Director Tate Taylor’s Film version of The Girl on the Train – which removes nearly all of the animosity between Rachel and Anna (played by Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise’s gorgeous scene-stealing co-star in last summer’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), and removes the key subplot about Rachel’s alcoholism nearly 30-minutes into the Film. In fact, the Film feels a lot more light hearted in general, zipping through the book’s main events and only grazing over some of the subtle darkness. It seems content moving in the direction of Hawkins’ writing, but never seems to truly embrace it. I can appreciate how the Film tries to recreate the chapter-by-chapter focus on a different character, but the idea never seems all that finessed and becomes downright distracting when it is jumping between past and present.
And while there is a glaring anachronism that the Film repeats twice for good measure (thereby creating an even bigger plot hole), I must say I felt a lot more catharsis at the end of the Movie than I did through the frigid finale of the Book – and its actually one of very few scenes that plays out nearly identical to each other.
Ferguson, completely unrecognizable throughout, does some solid work as Anna. The Film undercuts many of her scenes, but it never makes her any less genuine. Haley Bennett, last seen a few weeks back in The Magnificent Seven, is mesmerizing as Megan, the missing girl who really gets the plot moving. She brings a positively chilling sadness to her character that is made infinitely stronger with each new revelation. Luke Evans does well as Megan’s grieving and brooding husband Scott, hiding his English accent spectacularly. I wish I could say the same for Justin Theroux, who plays Rachel’s ex and Anna’s current husband Tom. He never seems able to fully commit to the material, and sticks out amongst the rest of the cast.
But this is Blunt’s time to shine, and she is absolutely terrific in every scene. The Film does her no favours by taking away what made her character so rich and detailed on the page, but she does not seem to care. She dives headfirst and does everything she possibly can to make us feel the motivation and strain that is powering her decisions. The Film does what it can to make Rachel a likeable character, but Blunt is the one that truly sells it. She makes us care about her plight, and she convinces us from moment one to come on this journey with her.
The Girl on the Train is intensely-flawed as an adaptation, but it makes up for it with some really well done performances. Much like the Book, this was never going to emulate or be anywhere near as good as Gone Girl, but the mystery at the heart of the Film makes for a worthwhile trip to the movies anyway. I just wish the content was worthy of the greatness of Blunt’s performance.
Universal Pictures Canada release THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN on Friday, October 7, 2016.
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