(director: Tate Taylor; screenwriters: Erin Cressida Wilson/based on the novel by Paula Hawkins; cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen; editor: Michael McCusker; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Emily Blunt (Rachel Watson), Hayley Bennett (Megan Hipwell), Edgar Ramírez (Kamal Abdic), Luke Evans (Scott Hipwell), Rebecca Ferguson (Anna), Lisa Kudrow (Martha), Allison Janney (Detective Riley), Laura Prepon. (Cathy), Justin Theroux (Tom), Lana Young (Doctor); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Marc Platt, Jared LeBoff; Universal Pictures; 2016)

“The thriller part gets roughed up by the dull soap opera trashy story and the banal dialogue.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tate Taylor (“The Help”/”Pretty Ugly People”) directs and Erin Cressida Wilson writes the screenplay adapted from the best-selling 2015 novel by British author Paula Hawkins. The glum thriller centers around a dysfunctional divorced woman blackout alcoholic who is a train-wreck. Her sad tale never takes us to stops on its commute where the darkness going on inside her head becomes edgy. Though a fine performance by its star Emily Blunt and a worthy supporting role performance by Allison Janney as the investigative cop, nevertheless the thriller part gets roughed up by the dull soap opera trashy story and the banal dialogue. Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) is first seen aimlessly riding a Westchester County suburban Metro North commuter train from Ardsley to NYC’s Grand Central Station. We soon learn she lost her job in personnel because of a drinking problem, and also lost her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). The anguished sad sack obsesses over her losses and that his new wife, his former mistress, has given him a baby girl. The train also passes the neighboring house where Tom’s sex-crazed mistress named Megan (Hayley Bennett) lives with her hunky husband Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel does not know them but eyes their place intensely every time she passes it by, imagining them as an ideal couple. Megan once worked as a nanny in Tom’s house, and is still having an affair with him though now working in a local art gallery. When Megan is reported missing and then found bludgeoned to death in the woods near her house, the voyeurism of the nosy and boozy Rachel leads the baffled cops to the killer in a messy but predictable denouement. Things are made more confused than they have to be, as we are led into several red herring subplots involving the three connected women Rachel, Anna and Megan. The unpleasant film is told in vignettes, and is morose from start to finish. At the end of the line, the thriller takes us on a ride to nowhere. The absurd story does not gives us a better understanding of the issues it raises like spousal abuse, alcoholism or infidelity, nor does it ever become entertaining.