The Girl on the Train – Review

Highly troubled, moderately competent thriller. 


Back in April this year, the trailer for The Girl on the Train surfaced online. Rightly so, people were very excited. It’s an absolutely fantastic trailer, perfectly teasing the story against a haunting remix of Kanye West’s Heartless (which isn’t released individually yet for some strange reason). Soon it was being referred to as ‘this year’s Gone Girl‘, which is an expectation it has severely failed to live up to.

Based on the bestselling book by Paula Hawkins, it revolves around Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee obsessed with her ex husband (Justin Theroux) and his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson), who becomes entangled in the disappearance of Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett).

(© – Universal Pictures)

The book is originally set in London, which initially annoyed fans. For me, the American setting bodes very well. Much of the film takes place in a serene, yet eerie neighbourhood in upstate New York which emphasises how close-knit the separate narratives are – as well as looking pretty.

The Girl on the Train is, at its core, a ‘who dunnit’. However, throw in a reckless alcoholic who’s blackouts function as a way of twisting the plot, you have something more interesting. Rachel continuously tries to remember what happened before she blacked out, which although adds an ever-changing layer to the story, also makes her alcoholism more genuine.

Much of the first half hour of the film is based around Rachel’s struggles following her divorce, and you’d have to be blind to not tell she has issues. This is thanks to Blunt’s performance, however despite moments of greatness, she’s been undeniably miscast in a role that really doesn’t suit her.

(© – Universal Pictures)

That being said, the cast on the whole are generally excellent. Bennett (who you’ll remember from Music and Lyrics) plays a secretive, mysterious role well, despite not being developed quite as much as I would have liked. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the characters and performances, as I don’t want to imply anything that could be interpreted as spoilers – go in not knowing anything if you can.

In a similar format as the book, the film tells the story through three narratives, starting with Rachel, then Megan, followed by Anna (Ferguson). What should have been an elaborate handling is instead incredibly convoluted, complicating the plot with separate timelines and perspectives. 

The Girl on the Train is best described as a very blunt hexagon. Consider each point in the shape as a plot development. Instead of being sharp, it feels smoothed out, taking away the gut-punching feeling some of the twists and turns should have had.

To sum it up…

At best, The Girl on the Train is a decent thriller with a generally great cast and interesting story. But it’s plagued with a lack of impact and confusing narrative, which unfortunately makes this a rather large disappointment. 

Rating: No bad

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Author: Cameron Frew

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Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

2 thoughts on “The Girl on the Train – Review”

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