Do me a favor and judge this film on its own merit. That is the best way to enjoy it.
The first thing you need to know about The Girl on a Train, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Emily Blunt, is that it's nothing like Gone Girl. The films are both based off best-selling page turning novels that start a frenzy among fans when they get the cinematic treatment. Both feature female-driven performances. Both feature a mystery. Outside of those things, the movies couldn't be any different. Let me explain.
The plot is simple enough. Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic with an obsession for trains and spying on her former neighbors, including Megan (Haley Bennett), a woman she can't take her eyes off. It's not a sexual thing. It's a memory thing. Megan reminds Rachel of a life she used to have and now longs for every day. For Rachel, the booze is her medicine to numb the pain, part which extends from the separation from her ex-husband (Justin Theroux). When Megan goes missing, Rachel is a suspect and her life spirals even further out of control.
Folks, the big reveal and twist at the end of this film isn't as good as advertised. It is a fairly decent yet "safe" way to bring a resolution to the story. There are a few different twists and turns that really allow for a viewer's mind to wander and wonder about the possibilities of what happened to Megan and who killed her. It's a less a game of cat and mouse and more about the psychological breakdown of Rachel and how she starts to lose her mind because her drunkened blackouts take away crucial details of the case.
The real juice of this film is Blunt and her tour de force performance at the center of the film. Without a great twist to carry the hype, you need a big time performance and the British actress delivers. Rachel is a messy canvas for an actress to dress a role up with. Blunt leans into the role completely. She has the blood shot eyes, red nose, cracked lips, and overall detached personality that really brings this character front and center.
If you don't get this caliber of performance from Blunt, the movie falls apart all together. She saves the film from being a mere gimmick and self loathing and lust for thy neighbor's wife. Blunt saves the film and shows once again, to go with Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario, that she can handle a number of roles. It's an impressive piece of work.
The rest of the cast is well chosen performers who don't get much meat on the bone to chew on. Theroux has a different kind of role and has fun with it. Alison Janney plays a detective that moves in predictable directions. Bennett has an affecting scene but mostly projects as a pretty innocent yet pretty catalyst. Rebecca Ferguson, Edgar Martinez (Hands of Stone, Point Break), and Luke Evans (Fast 6) all get cardboard cutout roles to parlay into paychecks. Blunt is the clear standout.
Is this film worth your time? Yes. Blunt's performance in addition to the fast paced plot and decent thrills are enough to keep you from checking your phone. While the end is too tidy and bow wrapped, it does keep you guessing until the end.
Is it worth your money? That's a harder sell. If you read the book and love digestible if not exactly memorable whodunit thrillers, go see it and take a friend. If you aren't a fan of these kind of thrillers and need a grand finale, skip it and wait for DVD.
The work of Blunt is the deal breaker for me. She makes this thriller tick and picks up an otherwise mundane reveal by infusing real feeling into Rachel's plight.
Just avoid the comparisons to Gone Girl. That film had the golden touch of David Fincher and a more sick and twisted finale.
The Girl on a Train is the Emily Blunt show. That's its engine and best asset.