Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train (Photo: Universal)

★★ (out of four)
STARS Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett

The herrings in The Girl on the Train might be the usual shade of robust red, but the film itself is largely a bloodless affair, not so much a whodunit as a wellobviouslythatpersondunit.

Based on the smash bestseller by Paula Hawkins, the film version finds Emily Blunt delivering a strong performance as Rachel, an unrepentant alcoholic who continues to harass her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Tom and Anna live in the same neighborhood as another couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans) — Rachel rides the train that passes alongside their property on a daily basis, thus allowing her to catch glimpses of their life as she whizzes by. She imagines Megan and Scott as the perfect happily-ever-after couple, and thus she’s shocked when she spots Megan making out with someone else on the balcony; this event is soon followed by Megan’s disappearance, and Rachel takes it upon herself to find out what’s going on. It’s perhaps an unwise move, since her involvement has the detective (Allison Janney) on the case tagging her as a leading suspect.

I haven’t read Hawkins’ novel, although my wife informs me that one of its biggest failings is that the identity of the villain is ridiculously easy to figure out. In that case, the movie is a faithful adaptation, since the celluloid counterpart is head-smackingly obvious from an early point. Honestly, even the culprits in those Encyclopedia Brown children’s books were harder to suss out. Couple this lack of mystery and suspense with a plethora of thinly defined characters and the result is a story that probably should have remained on the printed page.

Given its seasonal fall positioning, its initial vagueness about Megan (victim or femme fatale?), and even its title, The Girl on the Train clearly has aspirations to be another Gone Girl. But after a couple of weeks, we can probably expect it to be gone, baby, gone.

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