The Commuter Review

The Commuter

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That seems to be the mantra of Liam Neeson’s agent, ever since that fateful onscreen moment where Neeson growled into a phone that, while he did not know who he was talking to and he did not have much money, he did have a particular set of skills.

Namely, to epically kick butt for a hundred minutes or so.

With new release The Commuter, despite its elegantly edited opening credits sequence, we find ourselves back on familiar ground.

Here, Neeson’s particular set of skills revolves around the fact that his character, Michael MacCauley, used to be an NYPD cop. An Irish one at that. We know this because the film hammers the point home by having him meet his buddy called Murphy at a pub called Paddy O’Ryans.

Seriously.

We learn that, ten years ago, Michael quit the police force to become an insurance salesman and support his family following the financial crash.

The film flirts with making some subtle, insightful points about the economic downturn but then abandons these to simply flip the middle finger to Goldman Sachs.

Literally.

Michael tells his friend Murphy (Patrick Wilson) that he lost his job that day and is understandably shaken up about it. After downing a beer or two and running into former colleague Hawthorne (Sam Neill, acting sinisterly), he starts the journey home via his usual commuter train.

The train is packed with regulars such as Walt (Jonathan Banks), Tony (Andy Nyman) and Love/Hate’s Killian Scott.

A less familiar face on the train belongs to Vera Farmiga’s Joanna, who sits down next to Michael and outlines a hypothetical proposition: if Michael can, before the train reaches the end of the line, find the one person who does not belong on that train, he will receive a total payment of a hundred grand.

The cash-strapped Michael finds the scenario amusing and a little intriguing, until Joanna disembarks at the next stop and he realises it’s for real. Furthermore and with mounting horror, he slowly realises that lives are at stake and he has no choice but to complete the task.

The tension rises as Michael races against the clock, or rather the train timetable, to find the right passenger and, more importantly, uncover who’s behind it all.

As commutes go, it’s certainly more entertaining than reading the Metro on the way home with your earphones in.

Neeson is reunited with director Jaume Collet-Serra (of Unknown and Run All Night fame) and, as you may have noticed, the plot is not dissimilar from 2014’s Neeson-starring and Collet-Serra-directed Non-Stop: a confined-space, against-the-clock-whodunit interspersed with action setpieces.

The concept is intriguing, and the set-up, combined with Farmiga’s presence, recalls top train thriller Source Code.

This is however a very different beast, marred by some unnecessary green-screenery, special effects and tricksy camera shots, and mildly let down by some heavily foreshadowed ‘twists’.

But if you go in expecting an unapologetically Neeson-esque thriller, you most likely won’t be disappointed and, as long as you reserve a back seat for logic, the whole thing is pretty breezy fun.

Conor Brennan

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January 2018
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