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The Girl on the Train (2016)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/17/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/5/2017

The only thing that the entertainment industry loves more than a trend is two trends. When Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl appeared in 2012, it re-ignited an interest in female-centric murder-mysteries, specifically ones which didn't shy away from violence and dark subjects. This caused publishers to scramble as they attempted to find the next Gone Girl. (This included re-releasing and promoting Flynn's earlier books.) One of the biggest contenders in this search was the 2015 novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. In 2014, the Gone Girl film was released and became a hit. So, Hollywood began looking for the "next Gone Girl" -- a film which would intrigue both female and male viewers. And, to no one's surprise, The Girl on the Train made its way to the big screen. But, is it a new contender or an also-ran?

Rachel (Emily Blunt) has a very sad life. She's divorced, lonely, depressed, and drinks too much, which sometimes leads to blackouts. She takes the train to the city everyday, watching other people's lives as she passes by their houses. There is one particular house which she spies on with every trip. She imagines that the couple who live there (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) have the perfect lives and she creates scenarios for them. However, when we actually get to see behind the facade, we learn that Megan and Scott don't have perfect lives. We also learn that Rachel has a very specific connection to the block on which they live. When a crime occurs, Rachel becomes convinced that something which she observed from the train is integral to the case. But, can someone who often drinks herself into oblivion trust her own memory?

It's easy to see why The Girl on the Train has been compared to Gone Girl, beyond the fact that both have the world "girl" in the title. Both show the story from the point of view of various characters. Both involve a crime. Both show just how badly relationships can dissolve. Both show that even people who live in nice houses in the suburbs can have secrets and problems. I don't know if author Paula Hawkins did this on purpose, but The Girl on the Train seems to want to "one up" Gone Girl. Instead of being told from two angles, the story here is told from three. Instead of one marriage falling apart, we get three. Instead of a relatively simple crime, we get a bloody, violent assault. And while Gone Girl certainly had its steamy side, there is a great deal of sexuality here.

That description makes The Girl on the Train sound like a salacious exploitation film. However, quite the opposite is true. Despite the fact that there is a lot going on here, Director Tate Taylor has opted to bring us a relatively quiet and deliberately paced film. I really liked the first act, as things unfold at a very organic pace, as we slowly learn Rachelís story, which has many layers. Just when we think that we know exactly what is going on with her, we learn something new. The same goes for the other characters as well. The uncovering of secrets actually continues throughout the film, showing that no one here is exactly who we think they are. As the characterís true natures are being revealed, the story is filling in as well. The movie is essentially a mystery, and follows the rules as such, with the added wrinkle that some of those involved canít be trusted. Taylorís subtle approach to the material may come across as slow to some, but when the violence and twists occur, they really stand out.

Iím sure that there are those who consider The Girl on the Train to be a pale imitation of Gone Girl, but I was impressed by it. Yes, it does have its problems, mostly with the police investigation, which doesnít stand up under scrutiny. Also, the final twist may be obvious to some. However, as mentioned above, the filmís pacing and the uncovering of Rachelís life is very intriguing. This is made all the more better by Emily Bluntís performance. She really lays in on the line, playing a damaged, broken woman, and this is miles from some of her more glamorous roles. This brings to mind another one of the filmís big gambles -- everyone here, especially Rachel, is extremely damaged, and therefore, it can be difficult to get behind any of the characters. That doesnít change the fact that this is a well-crafted thriller made for adults.

The Girl on the Train still has another 11 steps to go on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source materials. This is the rare modern film which as actually shot on film, so close inspection shows that the transfer has revealed a minute amount of grain. The colors look very good, most notably the brighter tones, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent and the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-X (HD Master Audio) 7.1 track (which appears to run at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps). The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The highlight here are the sounds of the train -- the cars moving over the rails provide stereo and surround effects, and the rumbling offers deep bass. The effects are nicely detailed and there are definitely times when distinct sounds can be heard in the rear channels.

The Girl on the Train Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tate Taylor. The Disc offers fourteen DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 18 minutes. Most of these are very brief and there are only a few moments here which are actually new. "The Women Behind the Girl" (5 minutes) looks at how the story is split between the three main female characters. We hear from Author Paula Hawkins and Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson who discuss the themes of the film and the challenge of bringing a book filled with inner-monologues to the screen. "On Board The Train" (11 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains comments from the cast and the creative team, as well as a nice amount of on-set footage. The piece looks at the characters and the plot, while also touching on some elements of the production.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long