Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth McGovern, Sam Neill
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Liam Neeson, now 65, still packs the charm, particularly in the sort of high-concept thrillers that he’s been leaning towards post his reinvention as a slick ass-kicking action hero in 2008’s Taken. The Commuter is his fourth film with Spanish-born director Jaume Collet-Serra, and like their previous collaborations – Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night – it builds and expands on his image as a righteous do-gooder who’ll go to great lengths to protect those close to him.
Set aboard a Metro-North train plying from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, the film follows Neeson’s character, an insurance salesman named Michael McCauley, as he’s fired from his job and then faced with an intriguing proposition from a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) on his way back home. She offers him $100,000 dollars to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train. No sooner does he consider the offer that Michael finds himself drawn into a conspiracy, his wife and son threatened for life if he doesn’t follow orders.
It’s a slim premise but it works for the most part because it involves Liam Neeson doing things that the fans want to see Liam Neeson doing – which is, pacing up and down the compartments, looking somber while checking tickets, interacting with suspicious characters, and basically getting into both verbal and physical confrontations with passengers and authorities alike. It’s fashioned as – what else but – a race-against-time thriller and the filmmakers keep the pace so brisk you’re fully invested in the outcome, although on close inspection turns out the film’s high concept is impossibly ridiculous to say the least.
There’s a one-shot fistfight in the movie that’s particularly riveting, and nods to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train that are fun to spot. But it all becomes a bit of an overblown mess in the end with crashing train carriages and Neeson leaping off them to save the day. He gives a typically bankable performance that rises above the film’s flaws, and never lets the energy dip.
Clocking in at a crisp 100 minutes, The Commuter is a well-executed if old-fashioned thriller that doesn’t skimp on suspense or visceral action. Just don’t expect anything more. I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5