Train and tunnels are apt metaphors for the compromised characters who go through the motions and live dysfunctional lives in Tate Taylor’s moody, unsettling psychological thriller adapted from the bestselling 2015 novel by Paula Hawkins.
Commuting aimlessly on a train, Rachel (Emily Blunt, terrific) a jobless alcoholic who can’t get over her remarried ex husband Tom (Justin Theroux) Watson and stalks his new wife Anna and their baby whose nanny is Megan (Haley Bennet) Hipwell is being hounded for a child by her tempestuous husband Scott (Luke Evans).
One fine day, Megan disappears after telling Anna she won’t be babysitting anymore. Enter Detective Riley (Allison Janney, solid) who connects Rachel to the case and is convinced Rachel is lying.
Again, like all (?) alcoholics, Rachel accounts of the past are shrouded in a drink-induced haze and, therefore, unreliable. As it turns out, the other women are just as flawed. But Rachel has all of our sympathies even as detective Riley has none: after all, alcoholics are powerless over their disease whereas the other two could afford to be strong. Sadly, the lives of all three women are vitiated by their spouses, ex and current.
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Rachel, the angst ridden titular character is also the narrator of this dark story which unfolds in a time-hopping presentation and it takes several plot twists before the viewer realises things aren’t what they seem.
All of the principal characters are self destructive in one way or another, even the men: Tom by his seamy philandering, Scott by his macho-ness. By the end, there is no redemption in sight for the characters. What the viewer takes away is the lesson that lies, deceit, adultery, addictions destroys lives. But when, as the folk song goes, Will we ever learn? When will we ever learn.