By Roger Thomas
I know people who have read the book. I have not. My only information about the film before I saw it was the numerous times I have seen the trailer and the advice from one friend who saw it and liked it and another who did not.
As for the film, “The Girl on the Train,” I suppose I am in the middle. There are some strengths in the film that probably came from the book and some that are clearly the decision of the filmmakers.
First, I love the casting of Emily Blunt. There is already Oscar buzz around her, and she is deserving, however the Best Actress category is very tight this year. Casting Blunt was a smart decision. For that matter, all the casting is grand.
I also enjoyed the other two leading ladies as well: Haley Bennett as Megan and Rebecca Ferguson as Anna. I am not as familiar with these two actresses as I am with Blunt, but these three carry the film and almost all of the strengths of the production stem from these three strong performances,
One other actress that should be praised is Allison Janney. I have loved her since she did seven years in “The West Wing.” Glad to see she is still playing strong female roles like Detective Riley in this film.
Beyond the cast, there are some clever twists and turns throughout the story which I attribute to the author of the book the film is based on. Having not read the novel, I have no way of knowing if the filmmakers altered the story, but if they did not, they should be credited with the surprises. My personal favorite twist involves Lisa Kudrow’s character Martha. I will say no more for everyone should experience this moment for themselves.
The cinematography of the film is also exceptional. The shots of the trains and shots taken from the trains are really significant to this story. In this film, trains and houses are almost secondary characters.
On the other hand, I found some of the plot sloppy. This may be the fault of the novel, but ultimately, the screenwriter should have improved on it if the flaws started with the source material. One blaring mistake caught me as the film moved toward the film’s climax. Early in the film Blunt’s Rachel comes home to her apartment and she is dirty and bloody. Late in the film what happened that night is explained somewhat. Except after the event, Blunt is only dirty, no blood to be seen. It seemed to be a mistake, a pretty important one.
I also found myself questioning some of the procedures the detectives followed. I certainly am no expert, but the whole investigation of Megan’s disappearance seems to be mishandled. Again, this may be the fault of the screenplay or the novel, I simply do not know which.
Speaking of the disappearance, I have questions about that as well. I might be the only one, but when I have spent two hours chasing secrets to solve a mystery, I want clarity when I am done. I got most of what I wanted and it was satisfying, but there are a few more things I wish I knew.
I have written often that the highest praise a film can receive is when it was good enough to inspire me to go back and read the book. I have not decided yet if the film was that good, or if it was that weak and I need answers. Either way, if you seek out the film version of “The Girl on the Train” you will find an intriguing story with twists, one outstanding performance, some good supporting work, and great camera work. That’s more than many films have to offer.