By: Kevin Jordan
If that didn’t happen, and that didn’t happen, then what did happen?
The easiest comparison for The Girl on the Train is 2014’s Gone Girl. Both are based on books, both feature a messed-up title character, and both are thrillers revolving around murder. The big difference is Gone Girl gives up its big reveal just forty minutes in, while The Girl on the Train saves it for the climax. The bigger difference is that I knew how I felt immediately after watching The Girl on the Train (unlike with Gone Girl in which I’m still unsure how good that movie was) – I liked it quite a bit. Moreso, in fact, than Gone Girl.
(Mild SPOILERS ahead.)
As stated, the biggest reason I liked The Girl on the Train more is because the suspense of the murder is kept up for the entire film. On top of that, the movie keeps throwing curveballs to keep the viewer from guessing which of the four major characters is the actual murderer. Granted, I managed to guess who it was before the reveal, but that’s only because I’ve seen hundreds of movies and have learned to spot the little things that foreshadow reveals. Though, it wasn’t so much that I figured out who the killer was, it was whom I was able to eliminate early on. But enough patting myself on the back (you’re welcome), let’s talk about the meat of this film.
The girl on the train is Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic divorcee living with her sister (Laura Prepon). Every day, her train ride takes her past her old home where she sees her husband’s new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their baby. In addition, she sees the neighbors, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett), who she fantasizes as the perfect couple with the perfect love. One day, while staring at Megan, she notices that the man with her isn’t her husband. She gets off the train, has a confrontation with a blond woman (who could be Anna or Megan), then wakes up much later on the side of the road. She goes home, only to discover that Megan has gone missing and eventually turns up dead. Right away, you’re probably doubting that she had anything to do with it because that is your natural inclination toward the main character of any film. However, the film spends a good amount of time convincing you that she is a terrible person fully capable of such dastardly deeds. Yes, I said dastardly.
Just when you start to think that Rachel might just be the murderer, the film starts throwing those curveballs and they have some nasty bite to them. As the second act moves along, we get far deeper looks into Scott, Anna, Megan, and Tom (Justin Theroux), Rachel’s ex-husband. There are affairs, abuses, haunted pasts, shady therapists (Edgar Ramirez) – essentially the full gamut of soap opera plot lines, but with much better execution and writing. A character will start off as either likable or unlikable, then the movie will try to convince you otherwise. By the end of the second act, if you haven’t noticed those subtle little clues, you will equally suspect Scott, Tom, and Rachel, as well as Anna to a slightly lesser degree (though equally as plausible). Even as sure as I was about my guess, I was still on the edge of my seat because of the suspense. They even pull that stunt with Rachel’s previously mentioned confrontation, causing you to keep second guessing what really happened.
There isn’t much more I can tell you without ruining the film, but I can tell you that the acting was superb, most notably by Emily Blunt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Blunt is fantastic, but she’s somehow one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. She pulls off beat-down alcoholic as well as anybody’s proverbial drunk uncle. And kudos to the hair and makeup people who had the daunting task of making Blunt’s appearance match her performance. She looks at least a decade beyond her actual age (33) and I could almost smell how bad she looked.
Like I said, the easy comparison to this movie is Gone Girl, but I think The Girl on the Train is much more interesting due to the whodunit nature of the plot. That’s not to say Gone Girl was an uninteresting movie, it just wasn’t as suspenseful. Personally, I enjoyed the subterfuge and mind games The Girl on the Train plays with the audience. In short, if I’m picking between these two films to rewatch, I’m picking The Girl on the Train.
Rating: I wouldn’t ask for any money back, but if you think Gone Girl is better, ask for a dollar back because it’s very close.
(Note: A quick shout out to comedian Mike Birbiglia, who is the originator of my tagline.)