Neeson's character is Michael MacCauley, an ex-detective, now insurance salesmen, living in the suburbs with a wife and son. His routine is consistent, waking up to an alarm, making coffee, and kissing his wife before he takes the train downtown every day. When on the rails, he reads a book and says hello to the same familiar faces. His comfy life changes quickly however, when Michael loses his job. With a second mortgage and the kids college tuition adding pressure, a mysterious women named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) intrigues him with a “hypothetical” proposal of $25,000 now and another $100,000 later, if he finds a passenger and plants a tracking device on them before they arrive at a final stop. Of course, the hypothetical turns out to be the real deal, leaving Michael trapped on the train and attempting to find the mystery person or else his family dies.
The script from Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle is similar to Collet-Serra's previous film with Neeson- Non-Stop (that one was on an airplane). The narrative objective is to have our hero among a collection of characters in a tight space, keeping the audience guessing who the bad guy could be and learning new information along the way. It may be formulaic, but it works. It also helps that Collet-Serra has become the master of compact, B-movies that always stay under 2-hours, never boring, and always entertaining. The Shallows was a fierce shark attack flick with Blake Lively fighting for survival on a rock and when he works with Neeson, his films feel like throwbacks to 70's Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen dramas, of tough guys playing cool cops.
From train car to train car Michael paces, pries into strangers lives in unique ways, eliminating in his head the passengers that could and could not be the suspect. Each stop passes, the clock is ticking, and the pressure turns up, including Collet-Serra, who increases the level of action sequences. It's early in the new year, but The Commuter has one of the craziest hand-to-hand fighting sequences between Neeson and a guy with a guitar that earns a star on its own. It plays like a choreographed scene from John Wick: Chapter 2 mixed with Jan de Bont's Speed. And at his age, I seriously couldn't think of an actor who can do more than Neeson? This guy grapples with bad guys, shouts on a cell phone in his patented gruff voice, and still jumps onto a moving train when the task is needed.
Sure, The Commuter may have some stupid moments that will have audience members rolling their eyes, but for pure entertainment sake, The Commuter is worth the ride. Minor roles by Patrick Wilson and Sam Neil feel a tad underutilized, but this is Liam Neeson's show anyway. The guy can't do wrong in my eyes. He has turned his success of Taken and turned it into a genre of his own. He's a non-stop, pulse pounding, freight train, blazing down the track and I hope Neeson and Collet-Serra make movies of this caliber for years to come. When there's a Liam Neeson movie, I would take a train, a plane, or bus just to see it. Hey! A bus! We haven't seen Liam Neeson save the day on one of those yet...
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE COMMUTER
STARRING: LIAM NEESON; VERA FARMIGA; PATRICK WILSON; SAM NEIL
DIRECTED BY: JAUME COLLET-SERRA
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Commuter officially cements Liam Neeson into the conversation as a movie legend. Yeah, I said it. The 65-year old native of Ireland has and can do it all. A year ago, he was preaching Christianity in Martin Scorsese's Silence, voicing a tree-monster in A Monster Calls, and years before that he was protecting his family in the mobster drama Run All Night. It helps that he's found a sturdy collaborator in director Jaume Collet-Serra. The Commuter is the fourth time these two have worked together and again, it highlights all the reasons we love Neeson. Reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train and a fun mixture of clock-ticking drama, The Commuter is high-speed fun that fans will love.