This weekend offers new releases that focus on an adaptation of a psychological thriller novel and a period drama on slavery. But which releases are worth spending your money on?
“The Girl on the Train” – Tate Taylor takes on the task of adapting Paula Hawkins’ popular thriller. The film features Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux and Allison Janney.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who has lost her job and who divorced her husband after she caught him cheating. Rachel takes the train to work and spends her time fantasizing about the relationship of her neighbours, Scott and Megan Hipwell, during her daily commute. Everything changes when she observes something from the window on the train and Megan becomes missing, presumed to be dead. Rated R
The film has had a shaky start with critics this weekend. Aggregation websites have been less than kind to the film, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the site a consensus that reads, ” Emily Blunt’s outstanding performance isn’t enough to keep ‘The Girl on the Train’ from sliding sluggishly into exploitative melodrama.” The overall consensus from critics seems to be that aside from Emily Blunt’s gripping performance, the twists and turns from the novel fail to successfully play on the big screen.
Connor’s Take: Unless you’re a huge fan of the novel, skip this adaptation and save your money.
“Birth of a Nation” – Nate Parker takes on the role of director and actor in the film based on the true story of an enslaved African American who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. The film also stars Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley and Gabrielle Union.
Nate Parker takes on the tale of Nate Turner, a preacher whose master takes him across the United States on a preaching tour. But Turner quickly sees the sheer scope of slavery, and decides to become a different leader to his people. Turner’s ultimate decision to lead a rebellion against his owners in 1831 ended with rebel slaves killing roughly 55 to 65 people. This was the highest number of fatalities caused by any slave uprising in the Southern United States. Rated R
The film has been a success with critics, winning several awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film also has an average rating of 7.2 on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus reading, “‘The Birth of a Nation’ overpowers its narrative flaws and uneven execution through sheer conviction, rising on Nate Parker’s assured direction and the strength of its vital message.”
However, Nate Parker’s own demons have cast a shadow on the film. Because of the film’s critical reception, it has received scrutiny that has brought a 1999 rape that Parker and his roommate were alleged to have committed to the public’s attention. While both Parker and his roommate were acquitted, the controversy surrounding this alleged rape has caused some to be apprehensive towards the film.
Connor’s Take: If you can get past the controversy of Nate Parker, “Birth of a Nation” might be the film for you. Historian buffs in particular might be interested in the film’s content on slavery.