FILM REVIEW: The Girl on the Train – “Solid Popcorn Entertainment”

I think it would be fair to say that I had reasonably low expectations going into The Girl on the Train. I’ve been a fan of Emily Blunt for some time now (particularly thanks to last year’s excellent Sicario), but since the film’s UK release on the 5th of October, I’ve heard nothing but middling-to-bad reviews. Of course, it’s a pretty foolhardy endeavour to go into a film with preconceived opinions, so I thought I would try and ignore everything I’d read up until that point, and instead form my own thoughts of this domestic-thriller adaptation. Turns out, that was definitely the right decision.

I won’t give away loads of details when it comes to the plot of the film, because ignorance is a virtue that I luckily went in with, but here’s a very basic rundown: Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the same train, day-in and day-out, at the same time. She sits in the same seat, and observes the same people as the carriage passes their houses. Creating stories about these seemingly random people in her head, Rachel is suddenly shocked to the core when things start changing, and she’s soon wrapped-up in a dark story of lies, violence, and mystery.

Emily Blunt Girl on the Train
Source: PopSugar

I haven’t read the book that the film was based on, but it’s always hit-or-miss whether a major release such as this will live up to the hype that its literary counterpart has amassed. Personally, for instance, I much preferred the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl to its novel origins, but that’s generally not the case. For any fans of the book, I’ll say this: after talking to some friends who have both seen the film and read the novel, the adaptation appears to be mostly faithful to its source material. That’s not to say that it 100% captures every nuance and detail of the book (because that’s a very big ask for a 2-hour movie), but it doesn’t deviate as much as to cause annoyance. So that’s good.

But anyway; how actually is the movie? Pretty great, thankfully. As always, Emily Blunt puts in a commendable performance – especially considering that she’s playing a wreck of a person this time around. Her character is incredibly unlikable for the first half of the movie, and it almost lost me due to there being nobody to really root for, but there’s plenty of narrative explanation that justifies the motivations and actions of certain characters who seem reprehensible at first. Well, mostly – there’s still a few people who fade into obscurity once their usefulness to the plot is expended, but you’ll likely not notice their absence with everything going on.

It’s by no means a perfect thriller, though. The editing of the film and constantly jumping from present to past can get a little bit confusing at times, and leave you wondering whether a scene is happening before or after certain events have transpired. There’s a bit of an explanation for how choppy the editing can get at times, and although it alleviated some confusion, it still led to a bit of a mess towards the end of the film. Also, speaking of the ending: it isn’t incredibly satisfying.

I won’t give away the complete end to the movie; nor will I divulge anything that might indicate which way the story is headed. If you want completely zero spoilers prior to watching The Girl on the Train, however, then this might be where you stop reading the review.

Emily Blunt
Source: The Guardian

The big twist near the film’s conclusion isn’t immediately apparent, but it’s not as shocking as the filmmakers might want you to believe. It’s pretty obvious from the outset that Emily Blunt’s character has nothing to do with the murder of the young woman at the centre of the story, and yet the film constantly tries to imply that she is the prime suspect. This is pretty forgivable, considering she’s the supposed protagonist, but it feels like the audience catches on to her innocence far before the characters in the movie do – not a good sign. Also, when it finally is revealed exactly what happened to the missing girl, the film then insists on going on for about 5-minutes too long and nearly spoils what makes for a reasonably concise ending. A mere matter of minutes might not seem like an extraordinary amount of time, but when it means the difference between a satisfying and unsatisfying conclusion; it’s a crucially important decision to make.

The Girl on the Train is definitely worth checking out at the cinema. It’s at times shocking, and at others can become very engrossing. You won’t remember it for the rest of your life, and I can’t imagine it will win big at any award ceremonies, but it’s an enjoyable 2-hour mystery that slowly unravels at a respectable pace. All in all, it’s solid popcorn entertainment.

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