Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’ is an Engrossing Mystery

Kate Obedzinski ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Universal Pictures’ new thriller The Girl on the Train is based on Paula Hawkins’ 2015 bestselling mystery novel. Emily Blunt plays Rachel, a fragile, depressed woman who takes the train into the city every day and watches a seemingly perfect couple through the train window. Rachel becomes obsessed with the couple, and when the wife, Megan, goes missing, Rachel believes she may have witnessed a key event that led to her disappearance. She tries to recover lost memories and ends up deep in the investigation, learning things about herself and the people around her that she could never have anticipated.

Emily Blunt gives a gripping lead performance as an unreliable narrator-type. From the beginning of the film, we are immersed in her mind, from her chilling voiceover to her jagged memories that come up unexpectedly. Despite the mystery surrounding the character, Rachel is still the core of the movie- this is what gives the film its distinct, fragmented style. Blunt dives right into the messy parts of the character, and is not afraid to portray her gritty, unlikeable qualities.

Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

It is her performance that anchors the movie. Regardless of what you may think from the film’s marketing, Blunt is not the only star in this movie. The film centers around three women: Rachel (Blunt), Megan (a strong breakout performance by Haley Bennett), and Anna (a gripping Rebecca Ferguson.) These three women have more going on than is apparent at first, and the actors’ performances provide depth and strength. In addition, the supporting cast is stellar. Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, and Laura Prepon all add wonderful character without stealing the plot (although they could have been utilized more).

It would be unfair to spoil the rest of the plot, but be reassured that the mystery is engaging and ultimately satisfying. The plot is totally thrilling, with no shortage of twists and shocking revelations. The structure, with several changes in time and perspective, is a bit confusing at times, but that only adds to the overall effect. As you watch, it feels like you are seeing Rachel’s life unravel. There are quick flashes of memory, close-up shots showing Rachel’s eye and hand movements… you are encouraged to feel, as she does, confused and often frustrated. This method of strategic editing and camerawork is done very skillfully.

Rebecca Ferguson and Justin Theroux in The Girl on the Train. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Overall the film is very well done. The plot and mood feel reminiscent of earlier mysteries, like many Alfred Hitchcock films and 2014’s ‘Gone Girl.’ However, this does not mean necessarily that it is derivative. The film builds on the tropes of earlier films and creates its own original spin, with a genuinely shocking gut-punch of a twist that makes the viewer question even more what they have seen. It almost warrants a second viewing to appreciate how masterfully the pieces were put together in the first place. The Girl on the Train is a perfectly engrossing film that could be enjoyed by wide audiences.

Overall Grade: A-

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