Emily Blunt has become one of the leading British actresses today, proving her versatility with roles in such films as The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario. Now she pops up in director Tate Taylor's murder mystery thriller The Girl on the Train, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, as the depressed alcoholic Rachel ... who may possibly be a killer.
Divorced and fired from her New York PR job because of her drinking, Rachel still takes the commuter train into the city each day to hide the fact that she is now unemployed from her housemate Cathy (Laura Prepon). Each day she passes her old home, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has set up a new life with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their new baby daughter. She also sees the idyllic couple living just a couple of doors down - the beautiful Megan (Haley Bennett) and husband Scott (Luke Evans). But things don't seem all that idyllic when one day Rachel spies Megan canoodling on the balcony with another man. And when Megan goes missing, on a night that Rachel has a blackout, it seems she has some questions to answer.
Hawkins' novel was hugely popular, and it translates quite well to the big screen – although the London setting of the book is moved to New York for the film. But Blunt does get to keep her English accent. As a thriller it works well, but the narrative trick of the book – moving the perspective between Rachel, Megan and Anna – doesn't work as well here. What does work is Blunt's performance as Rachel, a woman driven by her neuroses, her obsession with her ex-husband and his new wife and child, and her fascination with Megan. She is thoroughly convincing as an alcoholic; full of self doubt, especially when she often can't even remember the day before. Also strong are both Ferguson and Bennett as Anna and Megan, both of whom have secrets to keep.
The film's biggest flaw is that the mystery at its centre is rather easy to figure out; what keeps you watching is that it's a film that's about much more than what happened to Megan. It's very much a film about how women relate to each other, and how they treat each other. And the real puzzle here is why these women do what they do to each other, and why they let the men get away with treating them the way they do. That is a puzzle for the ages, perhaps. But in the meantime, The Girl on the Train is not quite in Gone Girl territory, but it's still a reasonably compelling piece of entertainment.