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'The Girl on the Train' Film Review: A Hitchcockian whodunit on a twisting and turning track

October 7, 2016Ben MK

Everyone knows Alfred Hitchcock as the master of suspense. And if Hitchcock was still alive and making movies today, he might make one like The Girl on the Train, a film that takes several classic, Hitchcockian elements — murder, voyeurism and locomotives — and interweaves them into a modern narrative about infidelity, spousal abuse and alcoholism.

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins, the film stars Emily Blunt as Rachel Watson, a bitter divorcee who once lived in an idyllic house at 13 Beckett Road, which she shared with her then-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux). Now Tom lives there with his new wife, Anna (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation's Rebecca Ferguson), and their adorable baby daughter; and all Rachel can do is drink away her misery, wallowing in self-pity and gazing helplessly out the window, as the train she rides twice a day to and from Manhattan passes it by.

Along the way, Rachel develops an obsession with the house two doors down, or rather its attractive occupants. At 15 Beckett Road, young couple Megan and Scott Hipwell (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) appear to have everything Rachel longs for — a happy marriage, full of so much promise and potential. However, what Rachel doesn't realize is that things aren't as rosy as they appear. And when Megan goes missing one day, Rachel's obsession evolves into something much more dangerous, as she herself becomes intertwined in the mystery of Megan's disappearance.

Aside from the aforementioned five, the only other real characters in the movie are Megan's psychiatrist, Dr. Abdic (Édgar Ramírez), with whom she may or may not be having an affair, and a detective by the name of Riley (Allison Janney), who strongly suspects that Rachel is somehow involved in Megan's case, which leaves the list of suspects fairly short. Thankfully, director Tate Taylor (The Help) and writer Erin Cressida Wilson (Chloe) don't throw too many red herrings at the audience, maintaining the film's suspense with slightly more measured tactics.

Among them is the way the narrative routinely jumps back and forth chronologically, alternating between events that take place in the present day and those that occurred one, three and six months earlier. Together with the way certain elements of the story are retold from varying perspectives, and combined with Rachel's tendency to black out and lose her recollection of what may have transpired while she was less than sober, it makes for an intriguing puzzle. And it's one that viewers will surely get a fair sense of satisfaction out of, when it's all finally solved.

Otherwise, The Girl on the Train is the kind of film that lives or dies by its performances. And with Blunt in the lead role, the movie is in good hands. For the majority of the story, Rachel's either inebriated or being put through the emotional wringer; but Blunt's portrayal of a woman struggling to uncover the truth while battling her own personal demons never wears thin. Likewise, the rest of the cast do a commendable job; and even though the material sometimes stretches the limits of plausibility, they at least keep the result from going off the rails.

The Girl on the Train releases October 7th, 2016 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 52 Mins.

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