Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) and based on Paula Hawkins’ popular novel of the same name, The Girl on the Train is a lurid whodunit where our protagonist isn’t merely an unreliable narrator, there’s a strong change she’s the killer everyone is trying to uncover. Said narrator is Rachel (Emily Blunt), a thoroughly drunk woman whose life has become a sad routine of heading into New York City every morning, sipping on a thermos of booze and staring at the neighborhood she once resided in with her now ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux). As Rachel’s life flops on, Tom remains in the pair’s old home, where he lives with new wifey Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their young child; a little one the former were never able to produce together.
The flame of yesteryear isn’t the only thing Rachel’s obsesses over, as their’s also Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans), a seemingly idealic twosome whom Rachel projects all of life’s missed blisses. That is until Rachel witnesses Megan in the arms of another amidst one ride, leading to her own private investigation of this new figure, a decision that comes with screaming, a figure in a dark tunnel and our lead waking up with caked blood all over her clothes and body.
The Girl on the Train is the kind of film that would definitely have featured Michael Douglas were it released in the early 90s. Slightly pulpy, erotic and erratic, Taylor’s take on this kind of story is slightly conservative. The violent acts are started in frame but the impact, especially the most severe moments, aren’t shown. The various sexual trists begin and aren’t lingered on for long. This isn’t Paul Verhoeven, but rather a work attempting for an austere take on the genre. The end result is an alright movie that gets a lot of juice from a terrific Emily Blunt performance. Her Rachel is an unflinching life that’s gone off the rails. She stumbles here, lies to strangers there and is always, always on the verge of tears. Blunt keeps Rachel a vivid character; a troubling pseudo-sleuth in it for herself more than the person that has gone missing.
The movie’s main struggles take up the periphery. Taking a note from the book’s layout, we occasionally cut to the other leading ladies of this tale. We get a little time with Anna, displaying her anxiousness about Rachel still hanging about the edges of her and Tom’s life. We also get glimpses of Megan, where her melancholy over a life of mistakes and insecurities regularly bubble up. However, these ventures into the times and turmoils of Anna and Megan don’t walk the line well. There is too little room given to their existences to make them compelling, yet too much shown to justify the minutes spent on them, as each visit grows increasingly expository. This weighs down The Girl on the Train, as those making up this fictional playground aren’t intriguing enough to make up for the lack of trashiness.
Yet, when the conclusion comes and everyone’s motives are revealed, there is a bit of a punch. Even with flashbacks being a tad too prominent, the viscera finally flows and there is an outstanding use of a corkscrew that may lead to quite a few squeals. The whole is not great. It’s not a must-see. It is good enough.