The Daily Gamecock

​'The Girl on the Train' delivers a chilling thriller with unique characterization

Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson in the film "The Girl on the Train." (DreamWorks Pictures)
Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson in the film "The Girl on the Train." (DreamWorks Pictures)

Release Date: Oct. 7

Duration: 112 minutes 

Grade: A

Pros: Thrilling, impressive acting

Cons: Slow beginning, complicated storyline

“I’m not the girl I used to be,” begins “The Girl On the Train,” a psychological thriller directed by Tate Taylor and based on the bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins. Released Friday, Emily Blunt stars as Rachel, a woman whose divorce sends her on a downward spiral filled with personal struggle. She becomes entangled in the disappearance of a woman whom she watches from the window of her train car in a surprising, chilling plot.

While Rachel is the main character, the movie is also told from the point of view of the woman who goes missing — Megan, played by Haley Bennett — and the mistress-turned-wife of Rachel’s ex-husband — Anna, played by Rebecca Ferguson.  At some points, this multifaceted storyline adds intensity and mystery but it also makes the story feel more complicated than necessary.

Through Anna, Megan and Rachel’s viewpoints, the story unfolds into a narrative about what happened to Megan. Rachel, who rides the train into the city everyday, passes a white house where Megan and her husband live. She imagines they have the perfect life and seems almost obsessed with their relationship. She also ogles her old house, which is conveniently just next door, where Anna has moved in and started a new life with Rachel’s ex-husband. 

The movie unwinds slowly — a majority of time is devoted to characterizing Rachel as an alcoholic who spends her days riding the train to the city, drinking excessively, drawing in a sketchbook and drunk texting her ex-husband and his new wife. One morning on her daily commute, Rachel spots Megan kissing another man. This sparks a series of events that somewhat relate to Rachel. The next day, Rachel realizes Megan has gone missing and decides to take matters into her own hands.

“The Girl on the Train” is unarguably thrilling. Its plot-twists are completely surprising. However, perhaps the most interesting part of this movie is its hero — or lack of one. Rachel is portrayed as an alcoholic and her inability to move on with her life and leave her ex-husband’s new family alone does not make her a sympathetic character.

Blunt skillfully portrays a woman who has lost everything and seems to be teetering on the edge of sanity. Her glassy eyes and drunken stumbling are not only convincing, but almost repulsive. She seems crazy and even suspicious, not a standard female main character and certainly not a hero.

However, the characters add depth to “The Girl on the Train.” This film isn’t just another shocking thriller with a starlet that doesn’t add much more to the film than a pretty face. Rachel isn’t just a woman that’s found herself in a set of unfortunate circumstances. Her struggle may be almost outlandishly intense and she by no means comes to a perfect ending, but darkness in a central female character is rare. The other female characters also display a sense of power and maliciousness. 

This movie features a fragmented storyline and several points of view that feel almost disjointed. However, although it does start slowly, it is an exhilarating watch. Coupled with Rachel’s unique characterization, “The Girl on the Train” is a new kind of thriller. 


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