Chick noir – or ‘domestic noir’ as the novelists themselves prefer it to be known as – has taken the book world by storm, but so far the sub-genre has not fared quite as well on the big screen.
David Fincher’s take on Gone Girl, arguably the book that paved the way for this new style of psychological thriller, was superb, perfectly capturing the sly wit and menace of Gillian Flynn’s masterful novel. However, the adaptation of S.J. Watson’s Before I Fall Asleep was less successful, and was transformed into a proficient but overly melodramatic chiller.
The latest domestic noir bestseller to hit the big screen, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, sits somewhere between the two: while it’s not in the same class as Gone Girl, it’s an absorbing and ingeniously plotted tale of marital discord and murder.
Emily Blunt plays Rachel, the titular girl – well, woman really – on the train who becomes obsessed with a seemingly perfect couple – Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett) – who she sees each day from the window of her carriage. When the latter goes missing soon after being spotted with a mystery man, Rachel reports her suspicions to the police, but we soon learn that she is a far from reliable witness.
As well as being an alcoholic who lost her job months ago, she has been harassing her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), who live in the same street as the missing woman; she may have even confronted the missing woman on the night she disappeared, and as Rachel suffers from drunken blackouts, she begins to wonder whether she has done something really terrible…
Blunt is terrific as a woman who begins to doubt her own sanity and she’s ably supported by Bennett, Ferguson and the rest of the talented ensemble. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) does a good job in sustaining the tension across the multiple time frames over which the story unfolds, although he is less successful at deploying red herrings and the finale is something of a letdown.
Nevertheless, fans of the novel will be pleased that it stays pretty faithful to the book (despite the setting switching from the UK to the US), while those who have never read it are in for a classy, twist-filled ride.
In cinemas: October 6, 2016
Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor