The Commuter Review
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern
Liam Neeson is once again punching and kicking his way onto our cinema screens in The Commuter which marks the Irish actor’s fourth collaboration with Spanish director, Jaume Collet-Serra. They previously worked together on Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. This time around he’s ex-cop turned life insurance salesman, Michael MacCauley, who finds himself in a bit of a pickle when Vera Farmiga’s mysterious woman (only ever referred to as Joanna) approaches him on his commute home after having been fired from his job.
She offers him $100,000 if he agrees to do one little tiny thing for her. She wants him to find a passenger on the train who doesn’t belong and goes by the name of Prynne. This passenger will be getting off at the last stop, Cold Spring, and Michael has until then to find out who that person is.
Most of us ride this train everyday. We nod, we say hello, but how much do we really know about each other?
The Commuter has a pretty interesting premise, yet you can tell from the very beginning that Collet-Serra’s film has been heavily inspired by classic Alfred Hitchcock movies. The first one that immediately comes to mind upon watching The Commuter is Strangers On A Train, it just comes with a side helping of Neeson fisticuffs. That said, the heavy Hitchcock influence is by no means a hindrance. It’s actually this aspect of the movie that I enjoyed the most. I especially enjoyed the Hitchcockian iconography. The constant shots of Joanna’s black and white shoes are a direct example of this.
This is a reference to the opening sequence in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train when you follow a character’s black and white shoes. The over-the-top nature of these shoes is meant to signal to the audience that this person is not to be trusted. Only an unreputable person with quite a lot of money would wear such shoes. The same can be said about Farmiga’s mysterious Joanna. She is not to be trusted.
You have until next stop to decide. What kind of person are you?
But that’s enough about shoes and the film’s references to Hitchcock, of which there are many. The Commuter’s at it’s best when it’s a stripped back mystery thriller set in the confined setting of a train. Watching Neeson’s Michael desperately try to figure out who Prynne is is very entertaining and even Neeson’s hand-to-hand combat scenes are thrilling, although we already knew he could do that even at 60.
There were times when I thought that this was merely just a repackaging of one of Neeson’s previous films, Non-Stop, just set in a train as opposed to a plane. Next up we’ll see a movie in which Neeson has to find a bomb on a bus… Oh wait, that’s already been done. You should go and watch Speed by the way. It’s fantastic.
If the train don’t kill me, the train will.
That said, despite its lacklustre ending, I found The Commuter to be rather enjoyable. Maybe it was just the Hitchcock references. Maybe it’s my undying love for these Neeson action movies. However, The Commuter can only really be described as two-thirds of a good movie since it really derails (sorry) in its final act. It just becomes your standard action movie with some honky visual effects towards the end. I felt that it could have ended half an hour earlier and I would have been very happy, but the people that make these films always feel a need to tack on a big finish even when one isn’t needed at all.
It’s a shame because I was thoroughly enjoying The Commuter up until that point. That said, it’s easily one of the best Neeson action movies since The Grey, which is still the best film of the latter part of his career.
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