Based on the hit novel, The Girl on the Train is a mystery thriller in which an alcoholic divorcee becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a woman she sees from her train window every day
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez
Release date: October 7, 2016
Running time: 112 mins
Following in the footsteps of The Da Vinci Code and Gone Girl, Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train is the sort of best-selling thriller whose phenomenal success is measured by the sheer number of people you see reading it on public transport every day.
That kind of pre-existing audience is irresistible to Hollywood, making the film adaptation all but inevitable, though this one seems to have been fast-tracked, arriving on our screens less than two years after the book was published.
As such, it’s a serviceable adaptation that won’t disappoint fans, though it ends up amplifying the book’s problems.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel, a thirty-something woman who’s become a blackout-prone alcoholic in the wake of her divorce from ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), who left her for another woman (Rebecca Ferguson as Anna).
Rachel’s situation isn’t helped by the fact that she has to take a train past their house on her way to New York every day, which might explain why she’s become obsessed with Tom’s beautiful neighbour Megan (Haley Bennett) and her seemingly perfect life.
So when Megan mysteriously disappears, Rachel decides to investigate, believing she saw her with another man from the train window on the day she went missing.
Blunt and Bennett are The Girl on the Train’s saving grace
The biggest surprise is that, contrary to expectations, the filmmakers have not opted to tone down Rachel’s alcoholism with the aim of making her more sympathetic – instead, she remains a deeply flawed character and the film is refreshingly unsentimental about it.
The same is true of Haley Bennett’s character (who has her own set of flaws) and the performances from both women are easily the best thing about the film – certainly, Bennett’s Next Big Thing status seems assured, following this and The Magnificent Seven.
Unfortunately, the film skirts perilously close to derailment when it comes to the actual plot mechanics.
The central mystery is ridiculously easy to guess (at a certain point there’s only one viable suspect left) and there’s a frustrating lack of consistency to the film’s treatment of Rachel’s memory loss. For example, she remembers a vital piece of information halfway through, but doesn’t do anything about it.
The film’s half-hearted attempt to replicate the shifting perspectives of the novel never really works either, while the male characters (including Luke Evans as Megan’s husband and Edgar Ramirez as her psychiatrist) are thinly sketched and struggle to convince.
This is a faithful adaptation enlivened by strong performances from Blunt and Bennett, though it does rather confirm the suspicion that maybe the book wasn’t all that great in the first place.
The Girl on the Train is in cinemas now.