Directed by by Tate Taylor and based on the book by British Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train follows an alcohol divorcee, Rachel (Emily Blunt), who takes the same train to work every single day. As Rachel passes by the same houses, she comes to recognise the people she sees and begins fantasising about the relationships and lives of those that reside there. One of these houses belongs to her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), who now lives with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who he cheated on Rachel with, and their baby daughter. A few doors down, Rachel spends most of her commute fantasising about the seemingly happy lives of Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett). But everything changes when Rachel witnesses something from the train window and Megan is later found to be missing, presumed dead. Becoming entangled in a missing person’s investigation, Rachel’s involvement promises to send shockwaves throughout both her past and future.
The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.
The Girl on the Train is the kind of film that I know I would have absolutely loved if I had not read the book beforehand but, being such a fan of the source material, there were too many niggling differences that prevented me from doing so.
Based on one of my favourite books this year, The Girl on the Train is a brilliant and mysterious thriller, led by three powerful and relatable women who take you on an intense journey, switching from the past and present, to reveal the ongoings of a murder investigation and, ultimately, how their lives all interlink.
The performances throughout are all excellent, with Emily Blunt leading the adaptation outstandingly. With excellent support from Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, and Luke Evans, too, this stellar cast make this a film worth remembering.
But judging The Girl on the Train as a film on its own is hard to do when, sadly, the twists don’t translate on-screen as well as they read. My main irritant with the adaptation, therefore, lies in the fact that the film doesn’t shock as much as the book does. The film is dark and sexy, and almost takes on its own edge with the direction handled so well. Yet it doesn’t take you on the same journey as Paula Hawkins‘ book does, and it’s because of that reason that I wasn’t as engaged or as invested, when I found the book so easy to submerge myself into.
Although critics seem to love making the comparison between The Girl On The Train and Gillian Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl, which was adapted by David Fincher in 2014, the only real similarity is that these are both dark thrillers with female leads, so the comparison is unnecessary. Thrillers are often led by strong female characters these days, take Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy or C.L. Taylor’s The Missing for a more recent example, so to link these two stories together merely because of a woman taking the lead is a waste of time.
Rachel and Gone Girl‘s leading female, Amy, have completely different characteristics, their situations are very different, as is the murder investigation that follows. They may both be in messed up relationships, but we’ve all been there (maybe not to such an extreme, but you know). We’re not comparing this book to any male-led murder mysteries, so we should let The Girl On The Train stand out in its own right because it doesn’t need such comparisons to get any recognition; Hawkins excellent writing skills and character development do that all by themselves.
The Girl On The Train feels very similar to its source material, with excellent direction and a cast that can’t be faulted. However, if you were a big fan of the book then there may be many alterations that you find irritating, and the twists aren’t revealed as well as they read. Other than that, both the film and the book are of a brilliant quality and are both a highlight of this year’s releases.