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Film review: The Girl on the Train – Emily Blunt excels in thriller despite credibility gap

Excellent acting, cinematography and directing in adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestselling mystery, but it doesn’t delve deep enough into the psychology of the characters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 2:03pm

3.5/5 stars

It should be difficult to figure out the ending of a whodunit, and one of the strengths of The Girl on the Train is that some well-judged twists cleverly mask what its characters are really up to.

When the revelations do come, they clumsily demand a mental rewrite of everything that we’ve been shown before. But excellent acting, accomplished direction by Tate Taylor ( The Help ), and some moody, Nordic-inspired cinematography still make for a satisfying film, in spite of the credibility gap.

Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, the story revolves around Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic who’s caught in the middle of a mystery in a leafy east-coast suburb in the US. Rachel was kicked out of her house by her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) because he couldn’t cope with her alcoholism.

Living off her alimony, Rachel takes the train past her old house numerous times each day, reliving old times. When one of Tom’s neighbours goes missing, Rachel thinks she has some information that will help the investigation. But alcoholic blackouts mean that even she is not sure about what she saw.

Darker than book it’s based on, The Girl on the Train film adds a twist

Blunt goes the whole hog with her portrayal of alcoholism, and excels at playing drunk, a state that’s notoriously difficult to act. It’s a testament to her skill – as if one was needed after her exemplary performance in Sicario – that she never descends into parody, in spite of the mental and physical extremes she’s asked to inhabit.

Hitchcock was, of course, the master of this kind of suspense, and he made at least one film, Spellbound, about memory loss. The difference between a classic and a genre movie is the depth of characterisation, and unlike that film, The Girl on the Train doesn’t delve into the psychology of the characters.

Why they act the way they do is never really explained, and the fun of the film comes from trying to work out what’s going to happen next – it’s all about the plot. This is a B-movie dressed up to look like something deeper, although that doesn’t negate its potential to entertain.

The Girl on the Train opens on November 10

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