By Bradley Griffith
“Gone Girl,” both the book and the movie, has inspired many to follow in its footsteps using the same formula for success. Take a psychological thriller, throw in a few twists and turns, and add an unreliable narrator and you have yourself a good movie. “The Girl on the Train” has successfully followed that formula.
Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) likes to ride the train into New York. In fact, she rides the train into New York every morning and back home every evening. One of her favorite ways to pass the time on the train is to watch the houses that she passes by and imagine the lives of the people who live there. In particular, Rachel likes to watch one couple, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), though Rachel doesn’t know their names. Rachel imagines that they have the perfect marriage and the perfect life.
Rachel likes to watch other people, happy people, because her life has turned into a nightmare. Rachel and her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), tried to have a baby, but they couldn’t. Rachel turned to alcohol to drown her sorrows. Things got even worse when Tom divorced her, married Anna (Rebecca Ferguson, and had a child.
Rachel’s drinking took her to darker and darker places. She lost her job due to repeatedly showing up for work intoxicated. Rachel told no one about losing her job. Instead, she kept riding her train in and out of New York every day to watch the perfect couple. And the family that lived next door. Living next door to the Hipwells was none other than Tom, Anna, and their baby.
Rachel continues in this self-destructive spiral until one day on the train to New York she looks out the window and sees Megan kissing a man who isn’t her husband. Later that night Megan goes missing. The next day Rachel wakes in her home with blood on her clothes, a wound on her temple, and no memory of what happened the night before. Rachel begins to insert herself into the life of Scott Hipwell to help him find her murderer. The problem is that Rachel doesn’t remember what she did the night Megan went missing, and she doesn’t trust herself.
The best thing about “The Girl on the Train” is that the cast is absolutely fantastic. Everyone from Luke Evans as the controlling husband to Rebecca Ferguson as the mistress turned wife are excellent. Allison Janney, as Detective Riley, portrays just the right amount of concern and guile when trying to coax information out of Rachel.
But the real star of the movie is Emily Blunt. She turns in the best performance of her career as the deeply troubled title character. It’s difficult to make Blunt look so unattractive and pathetic, but the filmmakers did so with a combination of make-up and prosthetics. But it’s Blunt’s acting that brought the character to life exactly the way she was envisioned in the book. Her performance is Oscar material.
Following closely behind the cast is the story. While it’s a cliché to say that the book was better than the movie, the screenplay follows the story from the best-selling book of the same name very closely. Rachel doesn’t know what she did on the night Megan Hipwell went missing. She doesn’t know why she was injured or had blood on her clothes. She has brief flashes of “memories,” but neither she nor the viewer know if they are real or imagined. It keeps you guessing until the end.
“The Girl on the Train” is excellent filmmaking with an excellent cast and a story that sizzles with intrigue. It’s not as good as “Gone Girl,” but it’s still fine entertainment.
Rated R for violence, language, sexual content, and nudity.