Some fans of best-selling novel The Girl On The Train are already disappointed with this glossy Hollywood adaptation, which arrives just 18 months after Paula Hawkins’ book hit the shelves. They reckon Emily Blunt is simply “too beautiful” to play a title character who’s supposed to be an overweight frump with a drinking problem. Hawkins tried to reassure them recently when she praised Blunt’s “extraordinary job” in the role, but then undercut herself by saying: “They’ve done their best… to sort of make her look a bit shit, but you know…”
Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a 30-something divorcee struggling to accept the fact ex-husband Tom (The Leftovers’ Justin Theroux) is now married to Anna (Mission: Impossible‘s Rebecca Ferguson), the woman he cheated on her with. Every day Rachel sees the house Tom and Anna share through the window of her train into New York City, but she also spends her journeys fixating from afar on the seemingly perfect young couple who live a few doors down. One morning, Rachel spots the woman embracing another man, triggering painful memories of Tom’s infidelity. That evening, the same woman, Megan Hipwell (The Magnificent Seven‘s Haley Bennett), goes missing shortly after Rachel is seen staggering around the area drunk.
Director Tate Taylor, who previously adapted Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help into a hit film, brings Hawkins’ mystery to life hauntingly with flashbacks and constant shifts back and forward in time. Snobs will probably call The Girl On The Train a popcorn potboiler, but it’s a gripping and smart-looking one which keeps us guessing how and why Megan went missing: though Rachel is even more troubled than she initially seems, Megan’s husband Scott (The Hobbit‘s Luke Evans) and psychiatrist Kamal (Zero Dark Thirty‘s Édgar Ramírez) also have credible motives for wanting rid of her. But the film is driven by Blunt’s powerful central performance. Looking “a bit shit” as Hawkins says, she fully inhabits her sad, desperate character even at her lowest ebb, when Rachel wakes up covered in mud, blood and last night’s vomit. The mystery is resolved at the end, but you’ll still be pondering this film’s twists and turns long after the credits have rolled.