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Friday, October 7, 2016

Movie Review: #TheGirlOnTheTrain

The Girl on The Train is a messy but expertly-acted thriller.

Review by Matt Cummings

In the world of feminist hype, men and women seem strictly divided on opposite sides of the street: men are perceived as evil, while women are silent victims doomed to never right their ship. Universal's The Girl on The Train never gets that smart, wasting a ton of good performances on gratuitous skin scenes that do nothing to further the unsatisfying and messy plot.

For the ex-wife drunkard Rachel (Emily Blunt), life is now a lonely trip on the Amtrak between home and work, forced daily to ride by her former home while she watches the homewrecker Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) enjoy a life with Rachel's ex-husband (Justin Theroux). Each time the train slows to accommodate a faster-moving one, Rachel is given unwanted access that can only be minimized with large quantities of vodka. But when her former neighbor - the sexually-charged Megan (Haley Bennett) - disappears after Rachel witnesses her with another man (Edgar Ramirez), Rachel becomes determined to find her killer. Unknowingly, she enters a mysterious world where her own terrible history will intersect with murder and martial abuse, forcing Rachel to re-analyze her whole life while trying to not descend into a murderous alcoholic rage.

The Girl on The Train sports excellent acting - perhaps some of the best we've seen all year - it looks as raw and unfiltered as the plot might suggest - thanks to Director Tate Taylor's unnerving shots of Blunt as she struggles to maintain her sanity. Blunt precariously balances her character's psychoses with just enough ferocity to not make it feel like she's chewing script. We can't help but feel powerless to help Rachel, as well as the other characters in Train, and that's part of the problem. It suffers from a slew of hastily-drawn connections that are never fully explained. Supposedly major characters drift in and out of the storyline, condemned to offer acute insight one minute then disappear into a dark tunnel never to be seen again.

For all Taylor's done here to assemble perhaps the deepest cast of the year, The Girl on The Train tends to play feminism strictly in 1980's terms: women sit on every word their men say, do what they're told, reacting to the actions of the men instead of Black Widow-ing up to escape their prisons. Bennett, for all her immediate sexuality and incredible stage presence, she's mostly relegated to an oversexed woman with issues that feel manufactured. As terrible as one event is to witness, we never feel Megan is potential a real person who might live down the street. She's gorgeous and flirty, but all the reasons for it never feel enough for us to care. When she disappears halfway through The Girl on The Train, it's actually an opportunity to remove some of the story's driftwood.

Men here don't fare too well either. One character literally disappears for the last 20 minutes, while Evans' Scott seems poorly designed. Evans is one of my favorite in Hollywood, and yet Taylor treats him as a gorgeous hunk with apparent anger issues. That's it. He never grows beyond it, existing merely as a plot device for Watson. Based on the characters he's played (Mulholland Drive, American Psycho), it's entirely possible that Theroux's appearance will come off as a spoiler to audiences familiar with his work. But Taylor has multiple chances to portray Theroux the right way, giving Watson time to figure out why she's supposedly enamored of him. But The Girl on The Train never takes that chance, settling instead on Vodka as a reason instead of the real issue of marital abuse. That discussion would have been more appealing than anything we get here.

The Girl on The Train is really just an unintelligent version of Gone Girl, happy to exist as cinematic eye candy than a thriller worthy of our attention. Ferguson, whose star is on the obvious and well-deserved rise, merely looks like the idiot who made a bad choice in men rather than an intelligent victim who deserves our empathy. Anna and Rachel join forces mostly because they're thrown in to the same blender to see what comes out. Granted they have excellent chemistry but it all feels too short and wasted.

The Girl on The Train fancies itself another Gone Girl. Don't be fooled: it's messy and devolves into a standard kidnapping flick that leaves little to the imagination. See it based on the cast and Blunt's excellent performance, but be prepared to be underwhelmed at the rest.

The Girl on The Train is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity and has a runtime of 112 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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