Movie Critique – The Girl on the Train

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Brilliantly adapted to film, and equally well-written novel, with superb performances overall, giving a thriller to the viewers that would give them shivers up and down their spine. Ignore all the negative reviews. I would say give this a shot, you will love it.

The Girl on the Train is a 2016 American mystery thriller film directed by Tate Taylor and based on the 2015 debut novel of the same name by British author Paula Hawkins. Emily Blunt plays the titular role and is supported by Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Lisa Kudrow among others.

Rachel Watson (portrayed by Emily Blunt), a lonely alcoholic, sees her ex-husband Tom Watson's (portrayed by Justin Theroux) nanny, Megan Hipwell (portrayed by Haley Bennett) in the company of someone else from her train window. Enraged she goes to confront Megan, but blacks out. And when she wakes up she is covered in blood and Megan, goes missing. Now she resorts to find the missing woman unknowingly going down a rabbit hole that may lead to doors that she would rather have them kept closed.

I had not read the book but when the film was aired on TV, the summary of it reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes and Agatha Christie's 1957 Miss Marple novel 4.50 from Paddington. I simply watched it to see if it was a remake of either of them. And it certainly has elements from both and a few other such stories, but a totally different story in itself.

Adapted to screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, the plot for the book as well as the film were based on real life story of an Ohio woman, Venessa Jayne Russell, who was reported missing by her husband in 2000. Her skeletal remains were found in 2007 and her lover was charged of her murder.

Produced by Marc Platt and Jared LeBoff, the film was commercially and critically successful earning nominations in the British Academy Film Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. This is the second film that Platt and Blunt worked together, earlier one being Into the Woods in 2014. And also the first film directed by Taylor without Octavia Spencer in it.

I had watched Emily Blunt a while ago in the 2016 film The Huntsman: Winter's War. I particularly did not like her acting in that film, more so because Blunt couldn’t come across as cruel and icy Freya, the Ice Queen. 

However, in this film, she has given a convincing performance as an alcoholic bitter ex-wife, Rachel Watson. Perhaps her being pregnant at that time and the weakness and tiredness that comes with it also showed on her face, which the film makers used to their advantage to show her as a ragged, washed out woman.

The other two women, Rebecca Ferguson (portrays the role of Anna Watson, Tom's current wife) and Haley Bennett, made an equally competent performance showing their sad and depressed lives. 

However, of all of the cast, I would say that Justin Theroux as Tom Watson, came out on a high note. One who could hide behind a sheep's skin so effectively that there would be no hint of anything but. In fact, Luke Evans as Scott Hipwell comes to my find first instead.

A very small role for Lisa Kudrow as Rachel's ex-husband Tom's former boss's wife Martha. She always came across as the underappreciated underdog in the 90s Friends hit TV series. The few seasons I watched, it felt like although she was the glue that stuck all the six together, she never really got her share of credit or fame from that series. Glad to see her on big screen. 

Alison Janney portrays the role of a strong Detective Sergeant Riley investigating the disappearance of Megan. But in a way her character also uses a border-line abuse to corner Rachel into false confession.

All three women connected by one single thread of emotional and physical abuse directed towards them, struggling to get out of the web. Just as Rachel's blackouts and flashbacks, the film is presented in similar structure going between past and present lives of all three women. Varied kinds of abuse is shown through the film affecting all the key characters one way or the other. 

Two families torn apart and yet intertwined in every way because of one's alcoholism; or one's need to abuse; or one's promiscuous nature; or even if one's silent bystander taking the abuse in a different way. The movie left me thinking how depraved human mind can be without being outwardly cruel and yet psychologically cause immense harm. 

Brilliantly adapted to film, and equally well-written novel, with superb performances overall, giving a thriller to the viewers that would give them shivers up and down their spine. Ignore all the negative reviews. I would say give this a shot, you will love it.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. An upcoming Hindi Indian language of the same title which is a direct remake of the 2016 film as well as 2015 book. The film's release has been postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

b. The painting that Rachel is staring at in this scene below is The Subway by George Tooker in 1950 showing social injustices and isolation of postwar urban society. 

c. Scott Hipwell and Rachel Watson, when first meet, drink beer called Southern Tier IPA, brewed locally in Lakewood, NY; the state the plot is set in. 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When Rachel first reads about the disappearance of Megan Hipwell, it says "a week ago, last Friday". Then later when her body was discovered it says "two weeks ago". And much later when the story continues through flashbacks, the final piece is shown under the title "Last Friday". Timeline of events definitely is screwed up.

b. When Anna is trying to hack into her husband Tom's system, the Windows password is visible. Windows doesn’t allow this kind of feature.

c. All articles about Megan and her disappearance/murder show her age as 27 years. However, her grave stone in the end says "1990 - 2016" which would make her wither 25 or 26 depending on if she had had her birthday or not prior to her death. 


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