Dreamworks 112 minutes R
This film is a scary example of what can happen when your imagination is like a runaway train and you get too involved in other people’s lives. It’s also a lesson in Be careful what you wish for.
Director Tate Taylor (The Help) has crafted a mystery thriller with lots of twists and turns based on the book by British author, Paula Hawkins. It was on the best seller list for 15 weeks. When Hawkins met with Taylor, she was apprehensive that he wouldn’t make the film dark enough. But reassured, Hawkins gave him her blessing to have someone other than herself write it. Taylor changed the original setting from London to NYC.
This is mainly a chick flick exploring the motivations of 3 women who live in the upscale north corridor outside New York City. Emily Blunt as Rachel, shows the gamut of emotions, mostly depressed, as a sad, screwed up, stewed in vodka, divorced woman who makes some pretty desperate moves. The scenes of her sipping vodka from a water bottle and her pained facial expressions through the window of the train show how fragile she is. The scenes of her describing in narration what she sees in individuals in the train car may remind you of times you did so yourself.
Rachel rides the commuter train to and from New York city every day and longs for the kind of loving relationship she sees of a couple from the train who live near her ex. Rachel turned to alcohol when she couldn’t become pregnant (ironically, pregnant during the shoot) with ex-husband Tom, played by Justin Theroux. He also blames her for losing his job. He’s now married to Rebecca, and has a baby of his own which is another source of Rachel’s depression. Rebecca is baby crazy and has a sexy nanny named Megan, (Haley Bennett), who is the wife of the loving, but very possessive hunk, Scott (Luke Evans). They are the couple Rachel admires from the train. But Megan has her own problems, revealed in scenes with her therapist (Edgar Ramirez). When she quits being a nanny abruptly, Rebecca goes nuts.
Then, when, in an alcohol-fueled stupor, Rachel sees Megan kissing a man other than husband Scott on their balcony, Rachel goes nuts! There are phone calls, numerous texts and flashbacks and Rachel wants to know what’s going on. She follows Megan into a tunnel. It all becomes fuzzy. Rachel ends up hurt and Megan ends up missing. Did she kill Megan?
Through questioning by Detective Riley, played by Allison Janney, several suspects’ names pop up. Rachel, trying to play detective herself, gets too involved and everybody becomes intertwined, suspect and in danger. Whew!This becomes a whodunnit and you may be able to guess about half way through. And without having read the book. It’s all very melodramatic.
Tate wanted this to be more a story of how women treat each other to make it more interesting and even changed the male detective in the book to be played by Janney who seems to show up out of nowhere at just the right time. Many of the flashbacks become confusing rather than keep the story going. Tate shot it a little fuzzy around the edges from Rachel’s point of view so you’ll get to see what totally wasted can feel like. We’re trying to sort it out with Rachel who isn’t seeing clearly herself. It gets a little annoying. And there are too many shots of the train from different angles as transitions which interrupt rather enhance the pacing.
You’ve probably imagined the lives of people who live in the backs of houses you see from a train. Blunt and Theroux say they’ve done the same and think many can relate. That gets heightened for Rachel because of her drunken depression.
The film reveals clues to what’s really going on a little at a time and builds to a bloody climax. This is a heavy duty role Blunt says she was terrified to do at first, but got excited about it after seeing the script. She works hard and is convincing as this totally messed up character. She’s depressing and says she’s looking forward to playing something lighter. Next time she’s going to get even higher, but in the air, as Mary Poppins.