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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


SYNOPSIS: Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) travels every day by train past the Hipwells' house - a few doors from her own home where her ex-husband lives with his new wife and child, imagining their lives. One day she witnesses something shocking and is drawn to finding out what really happened.

Review by Louise Keller:
A case of hit and miss, this voyeuristic psychological thriller replete with time jumps and multiple points of view confuses and drags through its early scenes but comes together in the end. With its distinctive internal writing style, Paula Hawkins' best-selling novel offers a challenge for any screenwriter and Erin Cressida Wilson has structured the screenplay relatively faithfully, shifting the action from the outer edges of London to that of New York. But we have little personal connection to the characters - they are always kept at arms' length, meaning our investment in them is superficial. Highly successful is the turbulent mood that director Tate Taylor creates, enhanced by ultra tight close ups and propelled by Danny Elfman's dark, claustrophobic music score, although I would have preferred it to have been a little less strident.

The opening scene shows Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) looking out of the window of a speeding train as it passes house after house on the way to its destination. Voice-over narration tells us Rachel's innermost thoughts. Admitting to an overactive imagination, she describes her everyday obsession watching a pretty blonde girl whose name she does not know in one of the houses. This girl epitomises everything Rachel wants: seemingly secure in a loving relationship. But appearances can be deceptive as we learn throughout the exposition.

It takes a while to work out exactly who are all the characters and how they fit in with each other - the early sequences are a jigsaw of confusion. Megan (Hayley Bennett) is the blonde girl about which Rachel obsesses as she watches her in intimate situations with a handsome man named Scott (Luke Evans). We also meet Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), another pretty blonde with a baby, who is now married to Rachel's ex husband Tom (Justin Theroux). It doesn't help that Emily Blunt, whose presence usually lights up the screen, spends most of the film in a state of teary angst. The performances are all fine although Blunt's occasional wavering accent is a distraction.

Infidelity, jealousy and alcoholism are strong themes as the plot takes hold; there is a controlling husband, a man on the train, a sympathetic psychiatrist (Edgar Ramírez) and a despairing protagonist (Blunt), who gulps vodka as she watches life passing by from the train. We are drawn into the tangled web of all these characters and the more we know, the more sordid things become. Watch for Lisa Kudrow in a small but memorable role and Alison Janney (towering above everyone around her) is solid as the matter-of-fact detective.

There are numerous red herrings and tension builds (with Elfman's music at its most intense) as revelations come to light and the film soars to its dramatic and shocking conclusion. Itís a thought provoking film but in the end, I felt manipulated and rather disappointed.

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(US, 2016)

CAST: Rebecca Ferguson, Laura Prepon, Emily Blunt, Hayley Bennett, Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Edgar Ramirez

PRODUCER: Marc Platt

DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor

SCRIPT: Erin Cressida Wilson (novel by Paula Hawkins)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charlotte Bruus Christensen

EDITOR: Michael McCusker

MUSIC: Danny Elfman


RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes



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