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Soundtrack review: The girl on the train (Danny Elfman – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The girl on the train (Danny Elfman – 2016)


“The Girl on the Train” is a 2016 American mystery thriller drama film directed by Tate Taylor and written by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the 2015 debut novel of the same name. The film stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez and Lisa Kudrow. Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who divorced her husband Tom after she caught him cheating on her, takes the train to work daily. She fantasizes about the relationship of her neighbours, Scott and Megan Hipwell, during her commute. That all changes when she witnesses something from the train window and Megan is missing, presumed dead. Danny Elfman wrote the score and ironically it was released on the same weekend as the new Tim Burton movie and score sans Elfman came out.

Thriller Elfman? Alright, let’s see what he can do outside the realm of fantasy. I remember I enjoyed his score for “The next three days” from a few years ago. After a generic beginning Elfman gives me hope with “Something’s not right” because it’s…different. In the past few years thriller scores have begun to sound similar and it seems to me that the composer is trying to go a bit experimental and use the strings in a dark comedy, Coen Brothers movie mood kind of way. He also sounds a bit more electronic than I am used to.

This is not the kind of score that I can connect to instantly; it’s a bit more subtle than that and it needs my full attention and more than a listen to sink in. Somehow the movement of the music with a constant undertone over which strings or electronic pulses come gives me the impression of being on a train and looking out the window. Things are moving fast but at a pace which allows me to make sense of them. “The girl on the train” is the type of score that works much better in context though than on its own; it’s not a composition that I can take and match with a state of mind or emotion. I feel like I need the story it was written for to help me enjoy it more.

As the music progresses I start to feel as if I’m listening to a score by Alexandre Desplat: light, enjoyable enough but rather generic. I miss the Elfman sound and identity. This score sounds…anonymous; it doesn’t bother or excite me, doesn’t make me want to skip cues but I don’t feel the need to repeat them either. It comes , serves its purpose and goes. There are some moments like “Wasted” when the music comes out of the background and invites me to play.

I will watch the movie to see how much more the music will tell me in context. As a standalone listen I enjoyed the brief moments when the score sounded ambient electronic.

Cue rating: 68 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 2 / 52

Album excellence: 3%


Resolution / The Girl On The Train – Main Titles


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Naim Naimi 16th October 2016

    What a great review. You really described what I have in my mind about this soundtrack. Thanks. I will visit this site more often..

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 16th October 2016

      thank you!

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