Review: The Girl on the Train

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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PLOT: Rachel (Emily Blunt), an alcoholic obsessed with her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) and his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson), becomes embroiled in the disappearance of a young woman (Haley Bennett) she’s been observing on her daily train commute.

REVIEW: Everyone’s been expecting THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN to be this year’s big sleeper hit, with the prestige-ready 4th quarter release date, the marquee cast, and the fact that it’s based on a bona-fide literary phenomenon. Paula Hawkins’s thriller has often been compared to GONE GIRL, something that must have made producers salivate. I can only assume that whatever made the novel so popular is missing from the film adaptation as this is one of the most clueless, inept Hollywood thrillers in years. It’s a tragic waste of an amazing cast, all of whom come off looking bad by the time the credits roll on this schlock thriller.

the girl on the train emily blunt

Emily Blunt, an actress I like so much I devoted this week’s “The Good, the Bad and the Badass” to her, is poorly miscast as an alcoholic. A little make-up to make her skin mildly pasty (but not too much – they still bank heavily on her sex appeal to sell the film) is the only concession to alcoholism that’s made. This is Hollywood drunk, where nothing too unseemly, like a hangover, is ever actually shown. Compare this to something like SMASHED or even (going way back) DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. Given that alcoholism is supposed to be one of the defining traits of the part, some care should have been taken to get the affliction down right, but this borders on being cartoonish, and even someone as skilled as Blunt can't elevate it. It takes a really poor film to make one of the best actresses of her generation look bad, but THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is up to the task.

Perhaps director Tate Taylor deserves the blame. While THE HELP was a solid crowdpleaser, his follow-up, GET ON UP, was a mess and GIRL is even worse. He seems ill-equipped to handle what’s trying to be a Hitchcockian thriller, with amateurish attempts to be arty with slow-motion and wobbly construction that makes the flashback/flashforward structure of the movie collapse within minutes. By thirty minutes in, you won’t know what’s going on, but what’s worse is that you won’t care.

the girl on the train  haley bennett

Nobody here fares well. Rebecca Ferguson, fresh-off her star-making turn in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, is wasted in an extremely two-dimensional housewife part, and she seems far too intelligent to convey the character’s naivety. As her spouse, Justin Theroux gives a bland performance, which is a shame as he’s supposed to be so charismatic that most of the women characters are obsessed with him. You won’t buy it. Edgar Ramirez briefly offers the film a spark of life as a psychotherapist, but he’s in and out of the movie quickly. Luke Evans, who’s usually always worth watching, is embarrassingly stiff as a macho red-herring. I’ve never seen him play a part so broadly, and it doesn’t work.

Haley Bennett, who recently stole THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, is the worst-served by Taylor’s directing and the clunky dialogue. Ostensibly the femme fatale, she comes-off as alternately stiff and cartoonish. She’s far from the Hitchcock blonde Taylor seems to be framing her as. One of the few positive things about THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is that Danny Elfman contributes one of his best scores in years to it, but his efforts are wasted.

Rarely has a two hour thriller felt so punishing to sit through as THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. An absolute Razzie-level misfire from beginning to end, it’s a disastrous stab at an erotic thriller comparable to bad nineties attempts like COLOR OF NIGHT (this week’s Awfully Good). Perhaps there’s some camp value to this but I doubt it. All told, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN ranks among the worst major studio releases of the year and a horrible waste of some tremendously talented performers, all of whom will no doubt bounce back.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.