Film: “The Girl on the Train”; Director: Tate Taylor; Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney, Darren Goldstein, Lisa Kudrow, Lana Young; Rating: ***1/2
Directed by Tate Taylor, the film is an intriguing, psycho-dramatic murder mystery, based on the novel written by Paula Hawkins. It is the story of an alcoholic lady who, to keep a charade of a job, travels by train daily. And in due course, she is one of the last persons to witness a woman who has gone missing.
The premise sounds exciting, but the film is not treated like a thriller. Instead the director unravels the narrative as a slow-paced mystery, weaving the lives of three women — Rachel Watson, Megan Hipwell and Anna, and two men – Tom Watson and Scott Hipwell.
Rachel Watson, the girl on the train, leads “a sad life.” Daily journeying between Grand Central Terminal to the verdant New York suburb of Ardsley-on-Hudson, she is fixated with a home on 13th Becket Road. This was once her home she shared with her husband Tom. And while on the train, through a series of flash-backs we are informed that because couldn’t bear a child, her drinking bouts started and how she lost Tom to the blonde Anna, their real-estate agent.
Every day when Rachel passed her former home, she would notice Anna and her rage would once again resurface. And in her drunken stupor, she would harass Tom and Anna, by spying on them and with persistent phone calls.
The Hipwells happened to be their neighbours. Megan, with a colourful past, was now a nanny to Tom and Anna’s little daughter.
One day, while on the train and under the influence of alcohol, Rachel happens to notice a blonde standing in the balcony of her old home and kissing a bearded man. Thinking that the blonde is Anna, cheating on her ex-husband, Tom, Rachel out of jealousy and sense of loyalty to Tom, swears to kill Anna.
So, on her way back, she alights from the train and trails Anna. Rachel, of course, drunk and blanked out, can’t recall what happened that night. It so happens that on that fateful night, Megan goes missing.
Though the story seems contrived with the characters driven by its plot mechanisms, the screenplay written by Erin Cressida Wilson is gripping.
Despite its sluggish pace and without referring to the source material, one must say the film is refreshingly riveting. The first 15 minutes of the narrative are a bit befuddling due to its differently structured, non-linear narrative. But once the initial hiccups are overcome, the film is worth the investment.
What makes the film fulfilling is its logical end, which is so satisfying.
Emily Blunt with her tousled hair and unkempt look, plays Rachel Watson to the hilt. Her masochistic performance is a treat to watch. She is aptly supported by fine actors like Haley Bennett as Megan, Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Luke Evans as Megan’s obsessed husband Scott, Edgar Ramirez as Dr. Kamal Abdic – Megan’s psychiatrist, and Justin Theroux as Tom.
In smaller roles there is Allison Janney as Detective Riley and Laura Prepon as Cathy, Rachel’s sympathetic friend at whose house she lives.
On the technical front, with moderate production values, the film is effectively captured by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s lens. Some of his rigorous camera movements offering some disorienting and unsteady focus-changing images to communicate Rachel’s instability, are noteworthy.
Also, commendable are Editor Michael McCusker’s fine edits that put the film in the right perspective.
Overall, The Girl on the Train may not be at par with the October 2014 released thriller Gone Girl, in terms of an enthralling experience, but is nevertheless exciting.