October 10, 2016
This is one of rare times that I seriously wanted to watch a film based on its trailer that really caught my attention from the first time I saw it. The plot about a murder mystery looked very interesting, and the role of Emily Blunt looked like it would be attracting Oscar attention. I never got the chance to read the book by Paula Hawkins, so I can only comment about the film itself, and not about the faithfulness of director Tate Taylor's interpretation.
Rachel Watson is a lonely alcoholic woman recently divorced from her husband Tom. She sits on a specific seat on the train she takes daily going to Manhattan where she works. From her seat, she specifically spots the house of Megan Hipwell and envied her romantically ideal life with her husband Scott. One Friday from the train, Rachel saw Megan kissing another man on her balcony. The next day, Megan was reported missing. Disturbed, Rachel gets herself involved by telling Scott what she witnessed.
This film is really an acting showcase for Emily Blunt. She first got international attention via a supporting role in the film "The Devil Wears Prada", which also earned her Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. She would then get to play progressively varied roles in films like "The Young Victoria," "The Adjustment Bureau," "Edge of Tomorrow," and "Sicario." Her role here as the frequently inebriated stalker Rachel challenged Blunt to play a lead character so unstable and flawed, but which should somehow still gain the sympathy from the audience. The nuanced performance of Blunt confirmed my anticipation that this will be the role which may finally snag her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, if not the prize itself.
Haley Bennett just recently caught our attention in the remake of The Magnificent Seven. From that gritty rifle-toting cowgirl role, Bennett displays her versatility by doing a complete turnaround and playing the sultry and slutty Megan. She was daring here with fearless stylishly-shot nude scenes. Those steamy scenes with her psychiatrist where she tells her sexually-charged frustrations were her acting highlights.
Rebecca Ferguson has limited scenes as the third woman in this mystery, Anna, Tom's sexy new wife with whom he has a baby daughter. She played Hugh Grant's mistress in "Florence Jenkins Flores," and she was a mistress again here. Justin Theroux is a low-key character actor you've seen in several films but probably never took time to know better. As it turned out, his nondescript quality made him a perfect choice for the role of Tom. Luke Evans gets to play the clueless hunk here as Scott, the ideal man in Rachel's lonely fantasies. It was good to see veteran TV actresses Alison Janney and Lisa Kudrow in smaller but marked roles.
Aside from Emily Blunt's compelling performance, audiences will be kept in awe and suspense by the twisty whodunit plot. As much as I'd like to avoid the direct comparison, the film had the vibe of "Gone Girl" (2014) by David Fincher. It had the same domestic drama turned crime mystery storyline, spiced up by steamy scenes.
Director Tate Taylor told the story in an engaging manner even as the scenes shuttled between past and present, between reality and neurotic flights of ideas of three women. It was an engrossing 112 minutes running time that will keep you guessing to the end. On hindsight though, I am not sure how much detail you can really see from a speeding train when you have been drinking. Anyhow, the skill of Taylor's storytelling made me gloss over that issue and other seeming inconsistencies. 8/10.