The Girl on the Train: this adaptation skirts close to derailment

Much of this falls at the feet of director Tate Taylor, who managed drama in 2011's The Help, but can't quite step up to the rigours of Gone Girl-type melodrama.

The unhappy, martini-stained lives of NY suburbanites have always been a rich vein for writers like John Cheever, Richard Yates and Paula Fox.

Universal Pictures' "The Girl On the Train" is now showing in cinemas. Look at it this way: Imagine it were a man on the train who witnessed something. Instead, it's closer to the kind of early '90s psychological thriller where bad things happen in slow motion and deadly instruments are drawn from kitchen drawers.

The Girl on the Train is one of the year's best movies and certainly the best thriller/whodunnit since Gone Girl.

Played here with terrific conviction by Emily Blunt, Rachel may still be English, but this routine film treatment has shifted to the Westchester County outer suburbs of NY, and it appears to have lost some authenticity in the transatlantic trip.

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EVERY day Rachel rides the train from a town in NY state into Manhattan, passing by the house of a "perfect couple" she spies on from her window in the third carriage.

The younger couple live a few doors down from Tom and Anna, so Rachel gets to stare at them during the many, many times she stands outside her old house to peer in - all psycholike - through the windows.

Anna, wearing a delicate wishbone necklace, has everything Rachel wants: Tom, a baby, the furnishings she chose for the house.

She thinks she's involved, but not totally sure about exactly what she saw. But the tale adds another layer - an incredulous one - to her voyeurism.

Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) has self-imploded following an acrimonious divorce from her cheating husband, Tom (Justin Theroux).

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The film's half-hearted attempt to replicate the shifting perspectives of the novel never really works either, while the male characters (including Luke Evans as Megan's husband and Edgar Ramirez as her psychiatrist) are thinly sketched and struggle to convince. She's not overweight and unattractive, as Rachel was in the book, but she's a fine actress. "I just can't be a wife anymore", she says. She has blackouts and is missing time, plagued by flashes of images - snippets of her actions, of a blonde woman in a red jacket. On the night in question, Rachel wakes up mysteriously bloody. When we get a glimpse of a auto that plays a central role in a criminal act, it's a Nissan, and that pretty much says it all: This is a Nissan of a thriller.

Infidelity, catfighting, psychosis. The juicy qualities of daytime soap operas and tawdry female-empowerment thrillers on cable television are evident throughout The Girl on The Train, except the film seems oblivious that it belongs in such company. Ferguson, too, is a class above.

Any review of "The Girl on the Train" should not include much plot summary, for fear of giving away the major twist that's supposed to be worth the price of admission (though for this one reviewer, it landed with a "What?" thud evoking a grimace).

"The Girl on the Train" opens October 7.

105 minutes. Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity.

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