‘The Girl on the Train’ film is an absorbing murder mystery

Emily Blunt in "The Girl on the Train."
Emily Blunt in "The Girl on the Train." DreamWorks Pictures-Universal Pictures

What It's About: A juicy potboiler, "The Girl on the Train" intertwines the lives of three complicated, flawed women as the plot twists with pulpy flair.

Emily Blunt ("Sicario") stands out as a wounded suburbanite whose marriage unraveled and she is at rock bottom with her heavy drinking.

Rachel is painfully reminded of her past sweet life as she passes the old neighborhood on her daily commute.

From the train, she sees an affluent young wife on her balcony and fantasizes that she has an envious happy life.

When Megan (Haley Bennett) goes missing, Rachel becomes entangled in the case, and her obsession places her near her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and baby daughter.

The downward spiral continues, and it's not easy to watch the self-hatred and self-destruction. But all three women behave badly.

Director Tate Taylor ("The Help") and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson ("Secretary") have carefully constructed the suspense, revealing the captivating details that made Paula Hawkins' bestseller such a page-turner.

Set in New York's scenic Hudson River Valley suburbs rather than the original London locale, the film depicts upscale lifestyles, and cinematographer Charlotte Bruns Christensen captures that Martha Stewart magazine atmosphere.

But oh, there is a dark side. And you'll see — only I am not disclosing much here.

Performances: The top-notch cast meshes well. Is it a coincidence that both Megan and Anna are blondes who resemble each other? How everyone fits into the scheme of things is fascinating.

While the three women aren't entirely likable, Blunt makes pathetic Rachel somewhat sympathetic — her drawn, sad face tells us how lonely she is, and her quivering indicates she is damaged and afraid.

She is frightened about what she might be capable of and apologetic about her reckless acts. It is a meaty part for an actress of Blunt's caliber, who finally gets to show a substantial range.

Ferguson's ("Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation") part is trickier, for she is the ex-mistress now jealous wife.

Bennett ("Magnificent Seven") discloses the reasons behind her actions in a believable way, although she often acts like a spoiled, petulant child.

The women are close to a breakdown at different times. But there are always more questions that need answering.

The men — Justin Theroux ("The Leftovers"), as Rachel's cheating husband, Luke Evans ("Fast and Furious 6"), as Megan's controlling husband, and Edgar Ramirez ("Hands of Stone"), as the psychiatrist listening to Megan's life story, are all one-dimensional characters.

Although their roles are brief, Allison Janney ("Mom") adds spice as a cynical cop, and Laura Prepon ("Orange is the New Black") is good as Rachel's friend.

What Works: Fans of the book may not be as pleased as those new to the material, but as a movie, it is an absorbing murder mystery.

Living vicariously and voyeurism provide an interesting hook, and the alcoholism aspect adds to the suspicions in an authentic way.

Danny Elfman's score is particularly effective building suspense and establishing moods.

Comparisons to "Gone Girl" are inevitable, but this is not derivative.

What Doesn't Work: The third act drags to the finish line, and while the film ends satisfactorily, the conclusion is melodramatic soap-opera.

The audience reacts when the story takes an ugly turn.

Until it flipped, the plot kept me guessing for a long time.

“The Girl on the Train”


Director: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon and Allison Janney

Rated: R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity.

Length: 1:52