When Liam Neeson entered the Star Wars galaxy, we really begin to see him move into action. He made the occasional action movie afterwards, but in 2008, Taken cemented him as something of an action icon. Following Taken, Neeson has starred in roughly a dozen or more action thrillers. These roles probably only account for 30ish-percent of his filmography since 2008, but it is what he has become known for—Old Man Action Hero. Now, some of these films have stood out more than others, but where does The Commuter rank? Well, Dalton and I watched it the other night, and we decided to give you a tag team The Commuter review.
In Jaume Collet-Serra’s (The Shallows, Run All Night) The Commuter, Michael McCauley (Neeson) is an insurance salesman, and retired detective, who has ridden the same train every day for 10 years. After a difficult day at the office, Michael encounters a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) riding the train. She proceeds to ask him what kind of man he is. This woman wonders if he’d be willing to do one little thing for 100-thousand dollars. After she slips away at the next stop, Michael finds himself spiraling down a rabbit hole of conspiracy that will take him to the end of the line.
Dalton’s The Commuter Review
Look, let’s cut to the chase. If you’re asking yourself questions like, “Is The Commuter a nuanced piece of cinema,” you’re asking the wrong questions—and we both know it. If you’re asking questions like, “How many dope fight scenes does this movie have,” you’re walking down a much more productive line of questioning. The answer by the way is one great one and two that are pretty solid.
Between his collaborations with Liam Neeson and the dollar theater treasure/Blake Lively-versus-a-shark joint The Shallows, Jaume Collet-Serra has low-key established himself as Hollywood’s premier purveyor of high level B-movies.
Jaume Collet-Serra has low-key established himself as Hollywood’s premier purveyor of high level B-movies.
If that reads like a backhanded compliment to you then yeah, The Commuter might not be your jam, but if you love finding hidden gems on basic cable, this is gonna be right up your alley. Dope fights aside, what really makes The Commuter more delightful than it has any right to be is its cheeky, but not overly cute, self-awareness. There’s a complete disregard for physics and the mechanics of the criminal justice system. But, it also name checks at least four literary classics, includes a full-on “No, I’m Spartacus” moment of group solidarity, and features Liam Neeson giving a former Goldman Sachs employee the bird.
The key players and major twists will be pretty easily sussed-out by most armchair detectives. However, the film offers up plot complications and red herrings so rapidly and deftly that if you’re willing to give yourself over to this sort of diversion you’ll find yourself swept up in The Commuters charms. Sure, there’s more than a couple of plot beats that verge into the realm of socially problematic, and it all gets wrapped up in way too neat a bow, but for the entirety of its lean 105-minute runtime The Commuter provides well-shot action and engaging mystery while doling out the occasional lesson about self-sacrifice and reminding us that only bad guys pick money over the safety of others.
So yeah, if you’re caught up on the best films of 2017 get your ass out to a matinee this weekend and see Liam Neeson do a bunch of crazy shit for the sake of amusing the public. Oh, and he doesn’t have to pretend he isn’t Irish or under 60, which are really two huge checks in the plus column for any Neeson vehicle.
Arthur’s The Commuter Review
Dalton’s right. This isn’t nuanced cinema. However, it is fun filmmaking. I am not as well read as Dalton in regards to Collet-Serra’s films. I do enjoy seeing Liam Neeson do old man action stuff. So, going into The Commuter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, I was excited.
And it turned out well.
The film is very well edited together, and the opening montage sequencing allows us to quickly and easily get a feel for the family dynamic of the McCauley household. Neeson’s Michael is a nice guy who is doing the best he can. Michael helps his son with his homework, maybe a little too much. He has honest, human moments with his wife—they laugh together, argue as couples do and they cry together. And, he doesn’t always listen, I can relate to that. She gets frustrated with him, my wife can relate to that. It’s a good dynamic. Yet, it does more to assert Michael’s character for us rather than lend any empathy for the rest of the family. Building these characters up more for the audience to care about them would better serve the movie.
Yet, we like Michael. He’s like many middle class Americans, living paycheck to paycheck in hopes of giving his family the best he can. I kept waiting for some sordid secret to appear. However, the movie lets him be a clean cut hero to the end. He does what he has to, adapting to survive. Even in his darkest moment, he never goes to the dark side. Maybe there’s still a little Jinn magic left in the vessel.
The movie itself is fairly standard fare.
As Dalton mentioned, well read movie watchers will spot the twists from a mile away. But, the journey to get to them is still entertaining. Serra does a good work outlining the way the story will unfold. The editing makes sense. Often playing more with suspense than thrills, the film aims to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. Even in its most absurd moments or unrealistic elements, it keeps things light and loose. But, the set pieces are fun. Train movies, by and large, aren’t extremely common, so it is a fun change of pace, in that regard. Speaking of pace, this movie moves like a well oiled machine. Once we get to the second act, the movie doesn’t stop. It constantly moves and slowly raises the stakes. I appreciate that.
At the end of the day, is it a memorable movie? No. However, if you’re looking for some fun escapism, or something completely different from the awards-baity movies barrelling through cinemas, The Commuter may be for you.
The Commuter is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 105 minutes. It stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Florence Pugh and Sam Neill. Direction by Jaume Collet-Serra with a script from Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle.
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