Published last year, Zimbabwean-born author Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl On The Train has become a literary sensation, selling in excess of 11 million copies worldwide.
Tate Taylor, director of the Oscar-winning film The Help, was duly hired to shunt the book’s setting from London to New York.
Erin Cressida Wilson’s assured script retains a similar structure to the book, exploring tangled themes of motherhood, revenge and betrayal through the eyes of three women, who are unwittingly trapped in cycles of violence.
Using on-screen title cards to chart the fractured chronology, the film shifts perspectives between these flawed yet resourceful protagonists, while attempting to pull the wool over our eyes.
It’s an entertaining though not exactly pulse-quickening ride.
Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) has self-imploded following a divorce from her cheating husband, Tom (Justin Theroux).
When she wakes from her drunken stupors, Rachel has alarming gaps in her memory and, on one occasion, she is covered in bruises and blood.
As a result of her intoxication, Rachel loses her job at a PR firm, which she conceals from her roommate Cathy (Laura Prepon) by taking her usual train each morning and sitting in the park with a bottle of spirits.
The journey takes her past her old house where Tom is now happily settled with his mistress Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. The tracks also pass by the residence of neighbours Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett), and Rachel fantasizes about the couple’s seemingly perfect relationship.
One morning, staring bleary-eyed out of the train window, Rachel catches a glimpse of Megan in a clinch with another man.
Megan subsequently vanishes and Detective Sergeant Riley (Allison Janney) becomes interested in Rachel’s hazy recollection, especially since she has no alibi for the hours leading up to Megan’s disappearance.
Rachel will soon realise some memories are best forgotten.
The Girl On The Train is a smart psychological potboiler anchored by a strong performance from Blunt. Unreliable narrators are far more tantalising on the page than the big screen, and there are a couple of pivotal moments in Taylor’s film, which tip the wink too early to characters’ dark ulterior motives and personal ties.
Nevertheless, the picture chugs briskly down various dramatic sidings before arriving at a final reckoning that satisfies rather than surprises.