At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Girl on the Train “2016”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Mystery-Thriller/ Stars: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Prepon/Runtime: 112 minutes

I feel I should start this off fellow movie goers by saying that it truly does go without saying that the entire time that it was in production and even leading up to its release in fact, director Tate Taylor’s book adaptation The Girl on the Train consistently found itself stuck being endlessly compared to David Fincher’s 2014 novel adaptation Gone Girl. Yet to be perfectly honest with you the comparisons are not that unfounded. I say this because not only are both movies thrillers that were released in the fall, but also because both films are based on highly-successful, pulpy crime novels written by women that take us as an audience on a journey. A journey not only through the dark underside of modern married life whilst also at the same time constantly having us as an audience question the trustworthiness and presumed innocence of our central protagonist. Yet while ultimately it’s a semblance that works in Fincher’s movie’s favor, due in no small part to the fact that not only did it come out first as well, but also because let’s face it: it was just a better movie period. Yet these are still not reasons to dismiss The Girl on the Train. Indeed this is because, despite those factors working against it, this movie still does manage to build a compelling mystery for us plus have the whole thing be presented to us not only by a truly fantastic lead performance from Emily Blunt, but by a truly game supporting cast as well.

The plot is as follows: Adapted from the book of the same name by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train centers on three different women whose lives are all linked in some way or another. Yet for the purposes of argument, our main character is a woman by the name of Rachel. Rachel, we quickly learn, also happens to be a serious and quite devoted student to the school of alcoholism and who is still reeling from the failure of her marriage. Thus, in her attempts to cope as best as she can as well as to move on, Rachel finds herself riding the train every morning and every evening. It is while she is in the act of doing this that Rachel finds herself passing the time by fantasizing about the lives of a couple that she sees every day from her seat aboard the train. Unfortunately however what starts out as just a routine to help her escape from the doldrums of her daily life soon winds up taking a dramatic turn. A turn that takes the form of Rachel believing she is an unknowing witness to the woman cheating on her husband with another man. Suffice it to say then that due to finding herself, on account of past circumstances, unable to cope with the idea of a beautiful young woman seemingly throwing what looks like on the surface a truly perfect life away, Rachel finds herself driven to a hardcore bender. A bender which winds up making things a hell of a lot worse for Rachel. I say this because the morning after, Rachel wakes up in her bed covered in blood and vomit. Though if that wasn’t enough, things soon get darker when it’s revealed that not only is the young woman Rachel has been spying on missing, but that she was working as the nanny for Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna….two people who, in addition to hiding their own secret or 5, have never really hidden the fact that Rachel has never ever truly gotten along with them or they with her. Thus, despite having no clear memory of what happened as well as the police looking into her as a suspect very closely, Rachel decides to begin a little investigation of her own in order to not only try and figure out what really happened during her blackout, but also to establish her own innocence in the process…

Now I will be perfectly honest with you dear reader: if I were to go any deeper into the thick labyrinth-style plot that this film chooses to utilize then that for me would be like a nice stroll through a spoiler minefield….a feat that I should mention, in addition to being a gamble, usually winds up blowing up in the face of whatever critic chooses to utilize it. Therefore I feel that the plot synopsis I gave you up above should be enough to give you a taste of the twisty mystery that fuels this film’s particular narrative. A mystery that I could also tell you is, by and large, quite successful at keeping each and every one of you in the audience guessing as to where just all of this mystery and intrigue is headed. Indeed a lot of this is due to the fact that screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson’s adaptation of the novel on which the film is based is a truly well-built machine. Indeed not only does the film do an effective job at balancing out a three-perspective structure similar to the novel’s which patiently paces out all the clues so you can find them with much less difficulty, but also manages to do a terrific job at bringing the characters of the novel vividly to life. A remarkable feat due to the fact that every single character being some degree or another of unreliable. Thus by bringing the characters to life in a way that stays true to who they were in the source material, it really truly helps build on the other elements by making you question what we as an audience are presented and told is considered to be even the most obvious facts. Now, without going into too much detail here, I do feel I owe it to you, the reader to note one other detail. That detail would be that although I managed to figure out the solution to the mystery before the central figures in the film did, I feel that some of you may not. Yet even if like me you do I applaud this movie because it recognizes that while there is that possibility it also at the same time still makes you want to sit through this right until the very end thus making for one truly gripping ride from beginning to end.

Now a big part of the enjoyment to be found in this film I honestly can say truly does stem from the performances with particular regard towards Emily Blunt’s performance as Rachel. I say that because I feel that this truly does rank as one of the best performances of Blunt’s career yet. This is because although Rachel may be pretty, she truly is a downright cynical, quite jaded, and just overall complete mess of a drunk with a vibe of pure doom and gloom about her. Yet despite all of that, Blunt still manages to make her a fascinating lead character. Indeed even after Rachel finally finds a purpose in life due to actively trying to prove her own innocence in the central mystery Blunt still remains absolutely 100% compelling and is truly the thing that will keep audiences invested. That’s not to say though that the supporting cast does a terrible job. Rather they all manage to do wonderful in selling us on their respective parts. This starts with Hayley Bennett, fresh off of 2016’s Magnificent Seven remake, and she manages to do a wonderful job at bringing a degree of humanity to a role that is supposed to be, for all intents and purposes, a complete enigma. We also get powerhouse performances from the trio of men in this including wonderfully slimy yet intriguing work from Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, Edgar Ramirez, making up for that abysmal Point Break remake last year, in his smaller role here as a psychologist with key ties to the mystery, and Luke Evans who manages to brilliantly showcase a hint of a darkness that later came out along with a high amount of arrogance and pomp when he portrayed Gaston in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. In regards to the other women in the cast, besides Bennett and Blunt, we also get wonderful work from terrific character actress Allison Janney who, as the detective investigating, manages to give audiences typically great work in portraying a hard-nosed authority figure in that unique way that only she does best, and Rebecca Ferguson who, as Tom’s new wife, manages to do remarkable work at continuing her run of mysterious female characters that you are never really quite sure if they are friend or foe that she started back in 2015 in her stellar turn as Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. Heck even Lisa Kudrow does some great work in her 20-25 minutes tops worth of screen time in a role that is, without going into any spoilers, of the utmost and absolute vital importance to the solution of this film’s puzzle. Suffice it to say this is one cast that is clearly enjoying themselves immensely and it shows every single minute that the film runs.

All in all though I think it is safe to say that while The Girl on the Train doesn’t break any new ground or expand into any new horizons, the film is still an engaging, and legitimately thrilling mystery novel adaptation that is brought vividly to life thanks to phenomenal performances from Emily Blunt and a game supporting cast. Indeed make no mistake The Girl on the Train is exactly the kind of high-profile film that Hollywood needs during the fall movie season and also makes for a movie that is truly worthy of your time and energy….just whatever you do please for the love of God don’t compare it to Gone Girl. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Girl on the Train a 3.5 out of 5.