Tate Taylor takes on the unenviable task of adapting a bestselling novel, by bringing Paula Hawkins immensely popular The Girl on the Train to the silver screen – and he’s done so in an accomplished, if somewhat underwhelming fashion. Already changing the film’s location from London to New York, the lead role of Rachel Wilson does, however, remain British – a seemingly trivial detail but one that actually serves the narrative well, increasing the vulnerability in her demeanour; setting her up as even more of an underdog as an outsider living in a foreign country.
Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the train to work every day, and every day she passes the abode of Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans), as two lives she knows nothing about, but becomes completely immersed in. It transpires the couple live just a couple of doors down from her ex, Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new partner Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Prone to drinking and even getting off the train at their stop to pay her former husband a visit, she unwittingly gets caught up in the disappearance of Megan, having been located in the area on the same evening. Waking up the following day without any memory of the night before, with an unexplained head wound, she finds herself a suspect in the ongoing case.
Taylor has created a truly disorientating endeavour, in a way that is beneficial to the viewer’s investment in the narrative. Taking a non-linear approach, we even go as far to watch flashbacks from contrasting perspectives, seeing two sides of the same story, as we attempt to piece this complex situation together. Blunt turns in a remarkable display as the protagonist, so subtle in her depiction of alcoholism; managing to maintain a sense of endearment from the viewer, and yet serving a believable culprit in this murder mystery. However given the nature of the film and the way in which it is crafted, we find ourselves waiting patiently for the big reveal, and there lies the film’s greatest shortcoming: for it’s an obvious, badly presented finale that undoes much of the good work completed in the setting up of this story.
What helps matters – and ensures this picture remains compelling throughout – is having such an unreliable, volatile entry point, as you feel you can never quite trust Rachel’s potentially distorted memory. To a point that even those who have read the book and know exactly where this tale is heading, should still feel engaged and caught up in this murky affair.