Movie Review: “The Girl On The Train” – Running On Steam

Written by Matt Butler October 21, 2016

girl on the trainThe Girl On The Train is a story all about delusion and deception. At no point in the film are we ever comfortable with our assessments of characters, motivations or anything else we may try to latch onto. There’s a deliberate and often skillful omission of information that reminds you there’s still a few missing pieces to the puzzle, and like any good mystery, we don’t find the most important pieces well ’til the end. It’s so uneasy, claustrophobic, and dread-inducing that it almost makes up for a lack of legitimate intrigue.

Emily Blunt plays the titular girl on said train, Rachel. She’s a troubled divorcee stuck in the post-cheated-on phase, passing the days away looking through the passenger window, people watching, observing the houses of lives she cannot live. One of those houses, to little surprise, belongs to her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his childbearing lover (Rebecca Ferguson). What’s more intriguing though is her true fixation, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). These young lovers display a picturesque and passionate flame, in a time when Rachel’s has long died out. So when she spies an illicit act that may destroy their romance, it shatters her already damaged reality and opens the gate for a whodunnit murder mystery.

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The first ten minutes of The Girl On The Train make one thing perfectly clear, this is a film based on a novel. One of those trashy, Gone Girly page turners your mom reads before bed. Most information in the film is dished out through dialogue, which compensates for simple and often slipshod visuals. I was almost immediately put off by the overworked close ups and erratic camera movements. As the film went on, these became less and less of an annoyance for me. Because most shots are perspectives, we find ourselves stuck in the lens of a character, most often Rachel. The  movie makes an effort to reduce spatial comfort while also embellishing the emotionality of the actors.

girl on the train

The acting in The Girl On The Train is competent at its best and serviceable at its worst.  It’s really the able performances that keeps The Girl On The Train from derailing into Days of Our Lives territory. Everyone seems comfortable with the material given to them, though Luke Evans grasps his role with a heavy hand. The best performance, thankfully, is the leading one. Blunt does that thing I’ll always admire in actors: walking the line. With most characters, an actor is given the task of a balancing act, knowing when to lean this way, how far to lean this way, and when to lean back the other way. Blunt walks the thin tightrope between subtlety and rage. She’s engaging because even if we don’t know the extent of her knowledge and sanity, every action is clear and deliberate.girl on the train

The twist, if you haven’t guessed by my lack of flippant spoilers, is worth concealing, even with a drawn out runtime. The shock value of the reveal turns out to be secondary to the film’s recurring dips into dread. It’s domestic violence at its most insidious. But this is only the centerpiece of a much larger work. The Girl On The Train falls into that trend in mysteries where the eyes are so dead-set on the journey, that they miss out on the journey. It’s thematically strong in its portrayals of domestic abuse, but it’s missing those individual moments that make a movie memorable. The Girl On The Train never derails, but it’s more commute than journey.

My Rating: 6/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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