In Review

Has The Girl on the Train come off the rails?

Emily Blunt is first class in 'female fable for our times', but the film adaptation falls short of Gone Girl's savvy satire

The film adaptation of Paula Hawkins's bestselling thriller novel The Girl on the Train opens in the UK this week but while there's praise for lead actor Emily Blunt, some reviews suggest the story may have derailed on the way to the screen.

Tate Taylor's film stars Blunt as Rachel Watson, a divorced alcoholic who watches an idyllic couple, Scott and Megan, on her daily train commute. But when Megan goes missing, Rachel struggles to remember what really happened.

Blunt's co-stars include Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux and Haley Bennet.

Rosie Fletcher on Digital Spy says it would be easy to dismiss The Girl on the Train as a throwaway thriller or a Gone Girl wannabe, but while it's a twisty whodunnit, it is also "a female fable for our times".

Led by an unreliable narrator, it's "a zeitgeisty chiller of gnarled gender politics which is about way more than who, actually, done it", adds the critic. She praises the film for tackling issues of motherhood, gender politics and feminine ideals at a moment when gender roles and traits are in flux.

And Blunt is exceptional, adds Fletcher: "Sympathetic and convincing at every turn while remaining a woman you might not want to sit next to on your commute."

Thank goodness Rachel is played by Blunt, says Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph. She "throws every stray ounce of feeling and insight she can at the role".

The film itself massages out most of the kinks that actually made the book interesting, but Blunt's "terrifically cracked" performance makes this film worth seeing, he adds.

Yet Blunt doesn't have nearly as much outrageous fun as she ought to, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: "The hottest of literary properties lands with a lukewarm splat on the movie screen: a guessable contrivance with a biggish plothole."

The actor does her considerable best with this "exasperating and plaintive role", which doesn't give her half the juice Rosamund Pike got from Gone Girl, says the critic, concluding that "fans of Paula Hawkins's thriller might find themselves sticking to the book".

Indeed, the novel was "hardly the second coming of Agatha Christie", but at least it disguised the obviousness of its whodunnit with keen insight and sharp prose, says David Ehrlich at IndieWire. However, even this derails on the way to the screen, resulting in "a toothless network television pilot" stripped of its "subversive approach to gender dynamics" and "sadistic gallows humour".

Perhaps that's no surprise, he adds, as the novel was "a less savvy and satirical version of the Gillian Flynn thriller that inspired one of 2014’s best films". But nevertheless, any story "so smartly attuned to the need for women to hear themselves and each other" deserved better than being "reduced to such flavorless swill ". 

The Girl on the Train: Who stars in new film? 

20 September

The decision to set British author Paula Hawkins's bestselling novel The Girl on the Train in New York rather than London caused a stir among the book's many fans when it was first announced.

With the film out on 5 October in the UK, readers will soon have the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the transition has worked. 

British actress Emily Blunt, who recently became naturalised as a US citizen, has been cast as central character Rachel Watson, an alcoholic divorcee who becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation.

Here's a list of the other leading characters:

Megan
WOODSTOCK, ENGLAND - MAY 31:Haley Bennett attends the Dior Cruise Collection show 2017 at Blenheim Palace on May 31, 2016 in Woodstock, England.(Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Dior)

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2016 Getty Images

Haley Bennett, who appeared in last year's The Magnificent Seven remake, plays Megan Hipwell, the woman who disappears. Rachel sees Megan from her train each day and romanticises her marriage, until she sees her kissing another man. Then Rachel wakes up covered in blood with no memories of the previous night - and sees on the news that Megan is missing.

Tom
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04:Justin Theroux attends a London Fan Screening of the Paramount Pictures film "Zoolander No. 2" at Empire Leicester Square on February 4, 2016 in London, England.

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2016 Getty Images

Rachel's ex-husband Tom Watson is played by Jennifer Aniston's husband Justin Theroux, cousin to journalist Louis and a screenwriter for films such as Tropic Thunder and Rock of Ages.

Anna
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27:Rebecca Ferguson attends the "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation" New York Premiere at Duffy Square in Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City.(Photo by Grant Lam

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2015 Getty Images

Tom's new wife, Anna, is played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in The White Queen and also starred in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

Scott
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 03:Luke Evans attends The Olivier Awards with Mastercard at The Royal Opera House on April 3, 2016 in London, England.(Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

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2016 Getty Images

Welsh actor Luke Evans, who has starred in The Hobbit and High Rise, plays Megan's husband Scott Hipwell. Rachel lies to Scott, telling him that she was friends with his missing wife, to investigate what happened.

Who else makes an appearance?

That '70s Show star Laura Prepon (left) plays Rachel's housemate Cathy, while Friends actress Lisa Kudrow is cast as Monica, one of Tom's former co-workers. Edgar Ramirez, a Venezuelan actor who appeared in Zero Dark Thirty and The Bourne Ultimatum, plays Kamal Abdic, a doctor who was seeing Megan before she disappeared. The West Wing's Allison Janney plays police officer Riley, who is suspicious of Rachel's behaviour.

The Girl On The Train: Trailer gives first look at film adaptation

15 September

The trailer for the movie adaptation of bestselling novel The Girl on the Train has arrived and it promises a tense tale of obsession, deceit and murder.

Paula Hawkins's debut novel had millions of readers on the edge of their seats and was frequently heralded as the heir to the similarly twisty thriller Gone Girl. Much like Gone Girl, it was quickly snapped up for a movie adaptation.

So what do we learn from the trailer?

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The major difference that fans of the book will notice in the trailer is that the story now takes place in New York rather than London.

However, even if the action has been transported to the Big Apple, protagonist Rachel has the unmistakably British tones of Emily Blunt. Joining her in the main cast are Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Justin Theroux as Tom and Alison Janney as the police detective who becomes embroiled in the mystery.

From what we can tell from the trailer, aside from the location change, the plot will more or less follow that of the source novel. Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson confirmed that "the film is basically the cinematic retelling of the book". Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, she said: "It's really not gratuitously different. I really tried to do the book in cinematic language."

Told from the perspective of three women, the book centres around divorced alcoholic Rachel Watson, who becomes addicted to spying on the house of a seemingly perfect couple from the window of her commuter train every morning. When she wakes up bloody and confused after a late-night bender, only to learn the woman in the house has gone missing, she must question everything – even her own sanity – as she gropes towards the shocking truth about the disappearance.

The Girl on the Train is set for UK release on 7 October.

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