Film review: The Girl On The Train

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Image courtesy of dukes-lancaster.org

Fear not if you were too busy downing shots or terrorising locals to catch viewings at the Dukes over the Halloween weekend as the film is currently showing in cinemas across the UK; a perfect incentive to work a little harder or skimp on the large tub of Ben and Jerry’s this week.

True to the book, the film follows the lives of three women: Rachel (Emily Blunt), Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Haley Bennett) whom are to become forever entangled in a terrifying murder mystery – The source? A fragment of insignificance steeped in the mundane.   A view from a train. 

Watch as the pages flick ravenously before your eyes as each shift in character perspective is indicated by a name-only slide – Just a bit of light memory work required here.  The start of the film is a bit of a slow-burn, but after that there is only unbridled terror as the train speeds up along the tracks, achieving maximum effect like a spitfire train shooting towards an epic conclusion – And trust me you won’t be disappointed! But for now let’s recap to film content:

Train tears along the tracks.  Daytime sunshine falls down upon the metal bars like tiger-rays.  Rachel is seated in standard class, the dominant narrative voice; The Girl on the Train.  While listlessly devouring the racing shapes and colours of suburbia, she contemplates “there is something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home” –  A flippant statement which returns to haunt her in the end.  Blunt does a great job at exposing her alcoholic character’s vulnerability, while endowing her with admirable qualities so that you can easily empathise with her and feel compelled to hear her story.  She is just like the rest of us, a little rough and ragged round the edges.  But with a much more exciting story to tell.   You will follow much of the story through her eyes, whether blinded by booze, fumbling about in the dark or squinting through a blood-soaked haze.  You will be spurred on by that same restless energy to discover the truth.

Megan (Halley Bennet) is introduced next as a sultry feline stretching out upon the terrace.  Minus the pixie-style haircut, she embodies the image Rachel describes at the beginning of the book, but as her story develops we see that perfect image erode, revealing a highly complex character who will play pivotal role in the bringing of justice and restoration of harmony, though sadly, her path is riddled with blood and debris.  Her counterpart, Scott (Luke Evans), however, for all his forceful masculinity, is unfortunately lacking.  He serves only as a fill-in character without distinction or backstory.

We are also invited into the office of Megan’s mysterious therapist Dr Kamal Abdic (Édgar Ramirez) – a minor character who doesn’t say much but absorbs copious information like a sponge.  Personally, I would have liked to see a little more of his character in the film, but that silence will certainly intrigue you, and you’ll find yourself asking questions: how does he utilise that wealth of information? And why would a man in a position of trust and empathy contemplate an affair? Does his character add up?

And finally cue Tom and Anna – a perfect couple cardboard cut-out so easily torn apart by Tom’s bitter ex Rachel.  But is this entirely the case? Is there disquiet and discord within number 15 along the tracks?  Rachel describes the exterior for us; recollections from when she lived in that house, but it is Anna who will take us within its walls revealing the plot inch by inch with a rattle of the computer keys and many unexpected discoveries.   Is she a protective lioness shielding her vulnerable cub from her husband’s ex or an artful seductress who will go to any lengths to keep her husband?          Meanwhile Tom is either straight-talking in the street or sitting in in the car in a remote location with Rachel – confused? You will be.   Is he a man torn between his ex and current girlfriend? A father struggling with a work-life/home-life balance?  I’ll leave all that for you to find out.

The camera captures all this in starling form, providing a tangible physicality the book can only manage so far.  The use of clever camera angles allows you a sneak peek at the drama, and a cheeky spot of voyeurism –  side-note: Do not let a prudish parent ambush your viewing.  All these techniques capture explicitly the potent physicality of the book, and the high drama which will render you a nervous, shaking idiot in your seat.  You will feel yourself clawing the clean-white kitchen-counter, your pulse racing as you sprint through the long grass, your eyes bulge from their sockets, the cold hand of a stranger come to your aid, and knuckles crashing like iron balls against your skin.  But most notably you’ll feel suspense, mystery and intrigue.