Happy 2018 everyone! I’m starting my 2018 film-going journey with Liam Neeson’s latest film the action thriller The Commuter with a supporting cast that includes Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Sam Neill. The Commuter follows Michael McCauley (Neeson) an insurance salesman who on one consistently bad day is offered a deal by a mysterious woman known only as Joanna (Farmiga) on a train that he commutes to work every day on. The deal he’s offered is a seemingly simple one – find someone who doesn’t belong on the train and he’ll receive $100,000. He accepts the offer what he doesn’t realise is that the situation he has gotten himself into is far more complex than it initially seems.
The plot of The Commuter is simple enough at first glance but sadly the execution isn’t particularly unique. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has tried to craft a claustrophobic experience which centres around all the action in the film happening on a train sadly it comes across as more of an annoyance as the layout of a train is nothing particularly enthralling. Many may recognise Serra’s name from last years sleeper hit The Shallows and this to me now seems to be becoming his M.O. Pit your protagonist in a situation where they are trapped and have the character try and figure a way out of this impossible situation.
Unfortunately almost every aspect that worked for The Shallows works against The Commuter and it all comes down to the overcomplication of the story. In The Shallows it’s simple she’s trying to survive against a great white shark and this intimate and intense premise works. With The Commuter as the film moves along its brisk running time of 105 minutes, the story throws more and more elements at the wall to see what will stick. At first we have a simple premise – What makes a person good? This is a fascinating premise given what has happened to Michael from the beginning of the film. Sadly Serra gets greedy and throws in a dark twist on top of the first element such as the family having been seemingly taken from Michael to further motivate him to do the deed and then if that’s not enough there are at least another two more twists and turns to keep the audience guessing. Sadly by the halfway point, you will have figured out who the target is and you’ll be screaming at the screen in fury. If that’s not infuriating enough the finale of the film plays out all too predictably and it’s a shame because at the beginning of The Commuter I saw promise.
There were questions raised about the ideals of a person what they will do and how far they will go for family and security? Alas the film wraps itself up too neatly to be anything more than another tick off Liam Neeson’s bucket list of where to fight people. He’s fought them on planes, trains and automobiles he’s even fought in space. On a positive note because I’d like to say this film wasn’t all bad the action from Neeson was quite compelling the choreography and cinematography of the action scenes were impeccable some of the best he’s done in recent years. On top of that the acting was commendable Neeson leads the cast with the confidence that he’s earned from his impressive career.
With The Commuter audiences are treated to an odd hybrid of a film – part thriller part mystery which culminates in a strange conspiracy thriller that doesn’t pay off. It’s nothing new but with Liam Neeson still giving it his all it’s an enjoyable time at the cinema.