The Girl On The Train

Emily Blunt is good. Her title role in The Girl On The Train as a sad, damaged soul is the kind that often nets awards nominations. She manages the role well, avoiding the temptation to overact.

But it is the storytellers—novelist Paula Hawkins, screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson and director Tate Taylor—who make TGOTT a compelling, suspenseful mystery. The unfolding of the film’s set-up is accomplished smoothly, revealing characters and situations in a manner that grabs one’s attention and doesn’t let go.

When Rachel (Blunt) mentions her vivid imagination in an opening voiceover, it’s a clue that what is seen through her eyes may not be accurate. Factor in the alcoholism that rules her life and she becomes an unreliable source for certain plot elements. She does, however, have voyeuristic tendencies, so she is highly observant.

Two other key female characters, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Haley Bennett), are women that Rachel has watched from her seat the train that takes commuters into Manhattan from the suburbs. Anna is married to Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux). Megan is Anna’s neighbor who helps care for Anna and Tom’s baby.

Rachel often sees Megan embracing her husband on the upstairs deck of their home located not far from the tracks. She also sees her ex and his new wife—the woman he had an affair with while married to Rachel.

One day she notices Megan is on the deck with a different man. Soon after, Megan disappears. Rachel’s recollections may be of help to the lead police investigator (Allison Janney) determine what happened but the time in question is a blackout period due to her excessive drinking.

Among the talented cast are two favorite former sitcom stars. Martha (Lisa Kudrow of Friends fame) is a woman from Rachel and Tom’s past. Cathy (Laura Prepon of That 70s Show) gives Rachel a place to stay when her drinking problem is at its worst.

You may be able to solve this movie’s puzzle before the big reveal, but a lingering question remains unanswered after the end titles: is Emily Blunt’s performance awardworthy? Director Tate Taylor’s 2011 film The Help resulted in three acting Oscar nominations and a win for Octavia Spencer.

Blunt is a solid pro. Depending on what comes down the cinematic track during the next few weeks, that girl on that train may not be on the inside looking out come awards season.

 

 

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10 Cloverfield Lane

Creepy, frightening and suspenseful. Imagine being held prisoner in an underground bunker by a doomsday prepper who tells you that you should be grateful because he saved your life! 10 Cloverfield Lane provides thrills and chills and keeps you wondering.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving on a lonely road on a dark Louisiana night, having left the city and her boyfriend. Suddenly her car is hit. When she awakens, she finds herself in a room with concrete block walls. She is receiving an IV drip and she is handcuffed to the wall.

Soon she meets her rescuer/captor Howard (John Goodman) who tells her that she was lucky to have been brought to the shelter because everyone else is dead. Well, except Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a good ol’ boy who doesn’t seem quite as panicked about being underground as Michelle is.

What’s the story? Has there been a nuclear attack? Chemical weapons? Aliens? Or… does Howard just have an active, paranoid imagination? Is he a protector? Is he to be feared? Or is he a guy whose military training has prepared him for fateful, factual end times? And what exactly happened to his daughter Megan? Lots of questions!

10 Cloverfield Lane is a suspense thriller. Like some of Hitchcock’s best works it presents an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, one where things are not what they seem to be. First time feature director Dan Trachtenberg has delivered an efficient movie that doesn’t waste a frame.

The setting inside the underground bunker recalls the shed in last year’s Room where a young woman and her son went imprisoned. But the abode in Cloverfield has several rooms. Claustrophobia is an issue but the real concern for Michelle and Emmett is Howard and his unpredictability.

Winstead (best known, to me at least, as Ramona Flowers in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim Versus The World) is perfect as a woman whose survival depends on quick thinking while constantly reevaluating her situation. Goodman as the alternately threatening and comforting Howard is an enigma whose ultimate playbook can only be guessed at until the film’s climax. Gallagher (who looks like the guy who played Chuck on TV but isn’t) has little opportunity to shine.

FYI—10 Cloverfield Lane has nothing to do with the 2008 film Cloverfield except for the fact that J.J. Abrams served as a producer for both.

If you’re up for some creepy fun, 10 Cloverfield Lane brings it. But remember, when you’re telling your friends about it, no spoilers!