The best selling thriller novel of 2015 by Paula Hawkins was a sure bet for a film adaptation. You could almost count the screenplay advance monies, as you turned the pages ever faster.
With one of the biggest female stars on board as the titular character “Rachel”, (Emily Blunt) and a decent screenplay, what could possibly go wrong?
Rachel travels on the train each day into New York, which deviates from the original UK setting in the novel. As the train carves through the countryside, Rachel notices the perfect couple as they lounge on the deck of their beautiful house, basking in the warm glow of their perfect life
Rachel has regrets, she has lost much in her short life due to alcohol abuse and circumstances. Her life is ruined, she is not coping well, not well at all. Staying with a friend for a couple of months has turned into years.
Rachel’s former life is inextricably entwined with those she views in passing each day and as the story develops we understand more and the plot thickens. To provide too much of the story would provide spoilers but when someone goes missing, events start to spiral out of control.
The book carefully unwraps each character and keeps it’s secrets and surprises well hidden. You are never sure who is recounting the story or indeed if you can believe the re-collection of any of the main characters.
Whilst the film sets up the central premise well in the first act, the screenplay loses it’s way, taking far too long to reach the final act. When the denouement is finally played out, all suspense has been lost and director Tate Taylor squanders any momentum previously built over the previous running time.
No fault can be laid at Blunt’s performance which is as committed as anyone could ask for. Showing no reserve in plumbing the depths of her characters despair and alcohol abuse. Arguably because Blunt is so effective and believable, this overbalances the story and makes the central character unlikeable, which makes selling the story more difficult.
Luke Evans is somewhat bland and Allison Janney is criminally underused as the detective assigned to the Missing person case. Haley Bennett makes an impression in a difficult role with Justin Theroux, Rebecca Ferguson and Edgar Ramírez providing solid if not outstanding support.
So with bestseller to base your screenplay on and barnstorming central performance, the fault must lie with the director. Quite how this missed the mark despite the colossal anticipation and hype, only confirms the film is just not very good.
Critically mauled at time of release, yet with decent box office, you may hope this is still worth a watch. However, the film is difficult to recommend and reading the novel makes a far more attractive, albeit time consuming proposition.
A crushing disappointment despite sterling work from Blunt, with a great story and decent acting support, arguably the girl should have stayed on the train.