by Katia Kutsenko
Thrillers are not my thing. But it’s almost impossible to say no to a movie that includes: a bestseller book plot, a great cast and a tons of good reviews. (Almost) all of them totally deserved.
The Girl on the Train (2016) mixes up a lot of interesting elements. First of all is an anti-hero, which per definition is an interesting lead character. Rachel (Emily Blunt) is an alcoholic whose husband left her for a younger woman, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). The marriage, happy at first, broke down when Rachel was incapable of getting pregnant and her alcohol abuse became excessive. Incapable of moving on, Rachel spends her days on a train passing right in front of her old house, where her husband (Justin Theroux) and Anna live. However it’s the girl living next to them that catches her attention. Young, with a handsome husband herself (Luke Evans), Rachel channels all of her dreams of a happy life in this woman, hoping her life will be happier than her own.
Everything breaks down the moment she sees the woman with someone who is not her husband and, after a few (too many) drinks Rachel leaves the train in order to warn her. She blacks out, only to find out the woman she fantasized about is dead and the police suspect, among others, Rachel, a drunk woman incapable of moving forward from her disappointing past.
The plot of the movie is brilliantly developed, in an ascending climax which leads to an unexpected place, surprising and enchanting. Thrillers always have a mystery that helps them evolve, yet this one is not only particularly intense but surprising all the way. The risk in adapting a book – a very good book at that, written by Paula Hawkins – is to miss or overlook some greatly important links. The Girl on the Train doesn’t do that. It pushes, it tests, it gives the audience a breathtaking performance, a nod in the stomach from minute one to the very end.
The tone of the movie is intentionally dark and foggy. Most of the story builds up on Rachel’s memories, drunken memories. That creates a fog of uncertainty and doubt and is the same reason the movie comes across as so uniquely intense and interesting. That confusing back and forth in the timeline ends up making perfect sense. Every piece is well connected to the others, creating a path of crumbs that becomes more and more easy to follow.
The camera rarely moves. Tate Taylor (who worked at great movies such as The Help and Get on Up) decides to focus on the characters, on their environment and gives them the chance to lead the story. The camera changes from the frequent foreground shots to distant background images. A moving element, almost a main character, is the train, of course. It leads all the way starting from the beginning and guiding until the very conclusion of the long journey the story undertakes.
A great part of that intensity are the actors. Emily Blunt is always a good addiction to any movie (just remember her character in The Devil Wears Prada!) but this role is sublime. She is majestic and her character is built on an escalation of grief, confusion and self-destruction. It has an intensity that risks more than once to break the screen. But it would be a mistake to give her all the credit for the amazing ensemble. The trailer itself leads wrongly to believe that Blunt leads the plot, which is incorrect, since it is to be partially and equally divided with Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett. Both actresses give a great performances. Marvellous are also the performances by Justin Theroux and Luke Evans. Both great actors, this dark thriller seems to unveil a new part of them – moreso the The Leftovers actor than musketeer Luke Evans.
The Girl on the Train is intense, breathtaking. It unrolls an unbelievably great story and makes you hold you breath all the way through, casting a powerful spell throughout all the secret’s unveiling.
Katia Kutsenko / Writer (Cherkassy, Ukraine – 1992) Raised in Italy, Katia graduated from Politecnico di Milano. Architecture is her profession, movies and TV shows are her guilty pleasure. She loves period dramas more than anything and never misses the last Marvel movie. She travels a lot and enjoys photography, when she’s not busy writing her opinions for Telefilm Central.