I wish the girl on this train was Miss Froy who writes her name on the frosted window in Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless classic The Lady Vanishes. That film delivers on its promise of suspense and offers a gallery of mysterious, amusing, and memorable characters. This “train ride” leads nowhere.
When Paula Hawkins’ novel became a best-seller it was likened to Gone Girl, another contemporary thriller with a female protagonist and a dramatically deadly story twist. I can’t compare the book with this adaptation by Erin Cressida Wilson but had great difficulty becoming involved in the story. For one thing, I couldn’t empathize with its main character (Emily Blunt), a self-pitying alcoholic who suffers blackouts and fantasizes about the “perfect couple” she observes from her commuter train. She’s pathetic but not particularly sympathetic, especially as we piece together her backstory, and that makes all the difference in the world.
To make matters worse, I couldn’t find anyone in this film to root for, including such cold-hearted figures as the woman who’s taken Blunt’s place as Justin Theroux’s wife (Rebecca Ferguson), his former nanny (Haley Bennett) or the husband himself. Their highly-charged interrelationships ought to be fodder for a crackling thriller, but this isn’t it.
The only character who sparked any interest for me was the local police detective who simply goes about her job. She’s played in brisk, no-frills manner by Allison Janney, who makes any character interesting without breaking a sweat.
Even the gifted Édgar Ramírez is wasted in an underwritten role as a psychiatrist. Luke Evans has a thankless part and Lisa Kudrow makes a brief but welcome cameo.
Director Tate Taylor usually gets the best from his actors but here he’s been defeated by a narrative that is dreary and relentlessly downbeat. I just didn’t give a hoot about the girl on the train—or anybody else in this movie.