The Girl on the Train is based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling thriller that shocked the world. Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day. Everything changes when she sees something shocking happen there, and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.
Based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins and adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson, 'The Girl on the Train' is a 'Rear Window'-style psychological thriller about the interconnected lives of three New York women...
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is our narrator, a divorced PR executive who rides the Metro North train into the city each day and who is obsessed with the lives of the two women who live on her old street, which is visible from the train tracks. Rachel is also a destructive alcoholic whose narration may or may not be trustworthy.
Megan (Haley Bennett) is a lonely, young housewife looking for a way to stop running. Rachel thinks Megan's world is perfect -- Megan is beautiful and often seen wrapped in the loving arms of her handsome husband, Scott (Luke Evans) -- but Megan and Scott are currently arguing about whether or not they should have children.
Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is a former "other woman" and new mother housewife. Married to Rachel's ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), Anna lives in Rachel's old house and strives to create the image of a perfect life. She's also terrified of Rachel because Rachel has been harassing Tom on his phone and previously showed up at the house intoxicated.
When one of Rachel's two obsessions goes missing, it's left for the audience, Rachel, and the local police to figure out who, why, and how. Confusing matters, Rachel herself wakes up the next morning after covered in blood and mud. Is Rachel a drunken killer, or the key to solving a crime of passion?
Her (our) journey will reveal the answer(s).
Produced by Marc Platt and directed by Tate Taylor, 'The Girl on the Train' has all the elements to make a modern day Hitchcockian thriller. I also admire the way it's a slow burn designed to pull back the onion peel layering on very flawed, but well-rounded female characters (women, even in 2016 and 2017, don't usually get the luxury of being flawed or immoral as it affects "likeability"). In this thriller, we find out the good, bad, and the ugly in such ways the whole experience becomes more compelling as we get to know Rachel and Megan and Anna in depth.
Following that line of thought, 'Girl' is in the minority of films where I find the final act(s) better than first. As the twists and revelations became clear(er), I grew genuinely concerned for these women and curious about how it would play out. I guessed the answer, mind you, but was satisfied seeing the pieces click into place, even if the climax itself is a little too long.
That said, I'm not sure I'll be returning to 'The Girl on the Train' in the same way I do my favorite Hitchcockian thrillers. In other words, this is a movie I'd happily rent once, catch on HBO, or stream via Netflix.
Unreliable narrator movies are inherently difficult to structure and execute -- the storytellers have to give us a journey that's not solely dependent on conveniently-timed memories. The good news I think 'Girl' succeeds by that particular metric, but the consequence is an ultra-slow first half that is far less and engaging than the murder mystery elements. How so? All three women are introduced as, more or less, disaffected by their current lives, but because the filmmakers are holding back more compelling character elements, the first act involves a lot of unhappy staring off camera (ie, there's not much present drama).
In other words, there feels like a lot of water-treading in the first hour or so, which gives way to more specific character dramatics once there's an actual mystery to solve. To me, it's no surprise the film works more when characters are clearly defined and have actual goals. Then again, there's always a good chance the film's second half works as well as it does because of its current character-first structure. Still, I wonder what the movie would have felt like if the disappearance (and some of the character reveals) had been moved forward.
I also felt the movie working to trick the audience with its flurry of red herrings, unreliable narrator, and non-linear storytelling. As such, moments of later-import are flashed and hinted at, creating more of a jumble than any sense of mystery or urgency. Consequently, it feels like the filmmakers are less in control of their story than what Hitchcock delivers in something like 'Rear Window', 'Vertigo', or 'Pscyho', where the filmmaker lies to the audience and leaves out information, but does so with a much more measured hand.
At the end of the day, 'The Girl on the Train' is a fun movie to watch in a dark room and a bucket of popcorn -- the equivalent of reading a bestseller on a beach -- and I was surprised to enjoy its conclusion after a dull first half. I also applaud its feminine story starring imperfect women with complicated lives. Still, if I were planning a movie night, I'd much rather return to Hitchcock's oeuvre or other thrillers made in his shadow. That said, I am looking forward to checking out Ms. Hawkins' original book.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
'The Girl on the Train' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment as part of a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack. Pre-Menu (skippable) trailers include 'Loving', 'Bleed For This', 'Desierto', 'Snowden', 'Nocturnal Animals', and 'Split'.
An Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack is also available.
'The Girl on the Train' rolls onto Blu-ray with a strong AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The world depicted in 'The Girl on the Train' is wintry and cold, with a muted color palette made of dim interiors and hazy memories. It's no HD demo material in the traditional sense, but it definitely offers a handsome picture with an excellent sense of resolution. The picture is sharp and filmmic -- wide shots carry views for yards or miles, evoking the textures of wooden clapboards, train stations, leather seats, and the city. Closeups are even better, with microscopic shots of Emily Blunt's bloodshot eyes, hair follicles, and skin pores. Skin tones are naturalistic, pushing slightly when Blunt is intoxicated, or during various lighting conditions. Yet, even in gray lighting, there's no sense of coolness (check out Megan's skin in flashbacks towards the film's climax). Black levels too are very good, with no sense of crush.
I also want to give a shoutout to the VFX team who, I learned in the audio commentary, created the illusion of these houses being on the Hudson river when they were actually next to a golf course. This team won't win any awards -- that's reserved for more flashy work -- but their excellent effects are my favorite kind: nearly invisible.
At the end of the day, 'The Girl on the Train' may not be demo material, but it makes for one splendid Blu-ray.
'The Girl on the Train' departs on Blu-ray with a solid-but-underwhelming DTS:X soundtrack.
To be clear, not every soundtrack needs to be a an aural hammer pounding on audiences from every angle of a half-hemisphere, but compare this mix to thrillers from filmmakers like David Fincher or early M. Night Shyamalan, and it feels (sounds?) to me like we could have experienced a much more intense and directed surround experience, especially given DTS:X's ability to place sound objects above listeners.
In these terms, I found 'The Girl on the Train' to be disappointing, but if this were a standard 5.1 mix, I'd also have a lot of positive things to say. Danny Elfman's haunting score may not evoke his Burton-era collaborations, but it is immersive and involving, wrapping around the audiences and driving the somber tone of the whole experience. I liked it quite a bit, as I did the clear dialogue, the strong LFE presence, and the naturalism evoked inside and around any of the train (and train station) sequences.
Overall, it's a good soundtrack, but underwhelming for this genre and this new format.
Other audio options include DTS Headphone X (which doesn't require special gear, just headphones), Español 5.1 DTS, Français 5.1 DTS, DVS, and Feature Commentary by director Tate Taylor. Subtitle options include English SDH, Español, and Français.
'The Girl on the Train' boards Blu-ray with a lackluster collection of bonus materials, made up primarily of deleted material and PR-driven EPK featurettes.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 17:38). 14 scenes overall, available to play individually or all at once, you'll get to see some shots you may recognize from the trailer as well as other tidbits left on the cutting room floor.
The Women Behind The Girl (HD, 5:04). A lovely featurette to have here, this one focuses on the female author, screenwriter, and actresses who strived to adapt a decidedly feminine thriller.
On Board The Train (HD, 11:25). A standard EPK featurette, this one combines interviews with all the key players intercut with film footage.
Feature Commentary with Director Tate Taylor. I often write my reviews while listening to commentaries. Mr. Taylor is well spoken and informative, giving key insights into his creative collaborations, but there are a few long pauses here and there, and the info is often a little dry.
'The Girl on the Train' is challenging material... a non-linear thriller about three imperfect women struggling in a hostile, masculine world. While I would personally argue that the first half is too slow and jumbled, I found the layered complexities of the characters, and their journey, ultimately compelling. I can't quite call it a good movie or one I'll return to often, but it's certainly an interesting one you may like more than me.
As a Blu-ray, 'Girl' offers a strong video presentation and a solid surround experience while failing to take full advantage of the DTS:X format. Bonus Materials are also on the light side.
If you're a 'Girl on the Train' fan already, this Blu-ray is easily Recommended; for everyone else, Give It A Rent. Average those bottom lines out to Worth A Look.