My one-sentence summary of The Girl on the Train: Emily Blunt gives the best performance in a Lifetime movie this year. This Tate Taylor-directed drama is an adaptation of the worldwide bestseller by Paula Hawkins, and is a rather successful translation of that material to the screen. Those expecting Gone Girl may be disappointed, as this is a more pedestrian thriller. Blunt transforms into the alcoholic divorcee Rachel Watson, who envies her ex-husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux) and his new wife, Anna Boyd (Rebecca Ferguson). Rachel rides the train into the city every day, and sees Tom and Anna, as well as their neighbors, Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), from her window seat. Rachel becomes entangled in drama when Megan disappears after seemingly engaging in an affair with a mystery man. Blunt's performance is better than the story into which it fits, but The Girl on the Train is breezy entertainment.
Poor Rachel's life has gone off the rails - no pun intended - and she regularly drinks a fifth of vodka before the sun sets. After she catches Tom cheating on her with Anna, a real estate agent, she gets divorced and finds herself shacking up with friend Cathy (Laura Prepon) two years after vowing to move out in a few weeks. Her boozing is out of control, and, unbeknownst to Cathy, she has been fired from her job. She rides the train to and fro, and spends a lot of time awkwardly showing up in Tom's yard uninvited and hammer texting him at 3 a.m. Anna is naturally pissed; especially since the day Rachel drunk wandered into her home, picked up her young baby and walked into the backyard. Megan babysits for Anna, and quits without warning. Rachel spies Anna embracing an unknown man on her deck. Anna is soon missing, and Rachel decides to tell Scott about what she saw. In her drunken stupor she lies to Scott, telling him that she knows Megan from an art gallery. A local police detective, Sgt. Riley (Allison Janney), wonders why Rachel was seen with Megan the night of her disappearance.
I felt like I'd already seen this movie before doing so. I listened to the audiobook, which features wonderful narration by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey and India Fisher, and that presentation felt very cinematic. The novel unfolds through the eyes of Rachel, Anna and Megan, and each proves an unreliable narrator. The film focuses heavily on Rachel, but still ventures into the lives of the other two women. A number of changes were made in the film version. The setting moves from London to Westchester, New York. Rachel does not drink canned gin and tonics, a British staple that director Taylor felt American audiences would not recognize, and instead chugs straight vodka. Rachel's mother is not in the film, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), is important to the plot but largely glossed over. Some of the book's late-game reveals come quickly in the film, which does a decent job building suspense before tripping over itself and dropping the entire bucket of secrets well before the finale.
The book is a beach read, and this movie is a glossy cable TV thriller with a $45-million budget and brief nudity. Blunt, however, is fantastic. She really swings for the rafters with this performance, and she quickly shows the audience that Rachel is unhinged. Watching her stumble through her lonely day is both sad and fascinating, and Blunt is highly believable and utterly compelling as Rachel self-destructs in public. Taylor keeps the story moving forward, and, if anything, The Girl on the Train tries to pack too many characters and too much side drama into 112 minutes. Some of the pulpier twists ring false in the film, but the supporting cast, including Lisa Kudrow as a bit player, is universally strong. This is not a particularly unique or subtle thriller, but Blunt's performance alone is worth the price of admission.
Universal provides an expectedly excellent 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer for this newly released film. The movie is quite nice looking, with dreamy cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. There are plenty of crisp, detail-packed close-ups of Blunt's booze-bloated face, and every wrinkle and freckle is visible on each character's visage. Wide shots are deep and clean, without compression artifacts or aliasing. Black levels are inky, and crush is absent. Colors are gorgeously saturated and never bleed. Pans are clean and movement is natural. Really, there's nothing to detract from the score here.
The Blu-ray offers a DTS:X soundtrack, but I opted for the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, as I'm not currently set up for the extra channels. This is a good (but not reference) track, and the surround action is decidedly subtle. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and is layered appropriately with effects and score. There are a number of action-oriented effects, but the integration of those could have been more aggressive. An English DTS:X Headphone mix and Spanish and French 5.1 DTS dubs are included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD and both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. An insert offers an additional free digital movie code as a bonus for a limited time. A slipcover wraps the standard case. The disc offers a few Deleted and Extended Scenes (17:38/HD). The Woman Behind The Girl (5:04/HD) is a brief chat with author Hawkins. You also get On Board The Train (11:25/HD), about the cast and plot, and an Audio Commentary by Director Tate Taylor.
A faithful and streamlined adaptation of Paula Hawkins' bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train features an excellent performance by Emily Blunt as a boozy divorcee caught in a missing persons scandal. This is pedestrian melodrama for sure, but it entertains. Rent It.