On average, we pass by hundreds if not thousands of people every day during our commute to work or wherever we go, and we don’t acknowledge the people we encounter. We go through life as if nothing happened and the effect on people that we could have if something were to happen. Well, that’s the case for Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) in the new thriller The Commuter, about an ordinary man whose thrusted into a situation onboard his train ride home. The Commuter speeds along at full speed even if the script does derail, and I mean that literally.
Michael seems happy with life. He has a loving wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) and his son Danny (Dean-Charles Chapman) is ready to attend College while pondering the idea of finding an apartment or living in the dorms. Michael has a routine, he takes the commuter rail into New York City, works his job as an insurance salesman and returns home. The opening credits are unique as we see the commute happen multiple times. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (in the fourth collaboration between himself and Neeson) has an artistic flair in establishing great camera shots and allowing the action to unfold in front of the audience.
Michael’s day is off to a bad start when he’s fired from his job, acknowledges that he is facing insurmountable debt, and has to look forward to a long train ride home to tell his wife the bad news. Everything is normal on the train, Michael sees the usual commuters and even knows some of them and engages in small talk. That is until Joanna (Vera Farmiga) sits herself across from Michael to start up a conversation. She studies people and looks for ways on how they would react to situations. She plays a game with Michael, a hypothetical scenario where someone doesn’t belong on the train, and if he can find this person, he will receive a handsome reward.
Michael laughs it off until things begin to get serious and that’s when the game becomes nothing of the sort. Something is going on and Michael is confused with the consequences that come forth when he doesn’t abide by the rules. People die, his family is threatened, and time is running out. Neeson has become an aging badass in the films that he’s appeared in recently, most notably the Taken trilogy. Of course, he isn’t a rough tough ass-kicking person in The Commuter, he’s just a regular guy. Oh, I forgot to mention that he used to be a cop for the NYPD.
The Commuter’s script (penned by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi) is completely unrealistic and so absurd that the audience in attendance seemed almost amused by what they were watching. As the film progresses it literally goes off the rails and resorts to a final standoff scenario which resulted in laughs. Even though, The Commuter is ridiculous in its own way, I was hooked right from the beginning. Collet-Serra and Neeson make a great team their fourth time around and the supporting cast isn’t that bad either. Pay attention to the soundtrack by Rogue Banos, as it really suits the action and the tension as the train speeds ahead to its final destination.
Verdict 4 out of 5
The Commuter will either entertain the heck out of you, or you leave you wanting more from its script. For me, the mystery had me locked in and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The direction and cinematography are spot-on except for some annoying close-ups and Neeson does great work as an ordinary man wrapped up in a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone onboard. It doesn’t fare well with Neeson and Collet-Serra’s best film Run All Night, but I loved the complicated, if convoluted story. The Commuter speeds ahead and offers a better mystery than last year’s train thriller Murder on the Orient Express. All aboard, The Commuter is a ride worth taking!