The Commuter delivers pretty much what you’d expect and has edge of your seat tension in the first half but totally falls apart for the ridiculous and predictable finale.
Plot: Insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson) is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train.
Review: January is usually what I like to call “Neeson Season” as it’s around this time that Liam Neeson comes out of hibernation and decides it’s time to take down some bad guys. This year he re-teams with Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra as an ordinary commuter who is about to have an extraordinarily bad day.
From the opening few minutes you can tell that The Commuter is going to be a slick action thriller as it cleverly intertwines how Michael’s daily routine goes and sets up his family relationships nicely. We can see that his son is about to go to college, there are tensions with the wife due to money and that this is a man we can all relate to. Neeson is so good at playing these everyman characters that we can totally get behind him. After a series of bad events in one day happen Michael is approached on his train ride home by a mysterious woman (played by Vera Farmiga) who makes him an offer he really can’t refuse. Of course things aren’t quite what they seem and Michael’s day goes from bad to worse.
Although it takes a little while for the action to kick in The Commuter lets us get to know our protagonist and just what a mess his life has suddenly become. We need to understand him and his problems so we understand why he is going to do the things that are asked of him. Sheer desperation takes over and this gives the film its tension but also its beating heart. At times you think “what would I do if that happened to me?” and makes you question your morals and decision making.
As the first half builds up the tension and mystery the second is where the action kicks in and The Commuter has a surprising amount of fight scenes which are for the most part really well done with minimal shaky cam and fast edits so we can actually see what happens. Although it’s a PG-13 rating the fights are still brutal and poor Michael is far from an invincible badass and he takes several beatings.
The main problem with this movie is that it is sadly quite predictable and despite well executed action scenes and impressive camera work we still can all tell who the bad guy is in the first 15 minutes; so by the time Michael works it out we are already an hour and a half ahead of him.
There were very few genuine surprises to the story and it all gets a little overly ludicrous for the finale but for a Saturday night potboiler you could do a lot worse. With a Neeson film you know what to expect and if you enjoyed Non-Stop and his other recent action efforts then you’ll have a blast.
I wasn’t sure if the rest of the audience got the reference which made me smile but one of the police officers is called Alex Murphy which was a nice nod to RoboCop.
Overall, The Commuter is everything you’d want it to be and is a slick and exciting action thriller; it’s a shame it was so predictable but it’s still massively entertaining.