Movie Review – The Commuter
Since 2009, Liam Neeson has been starring in particular kinds of action films in January or around winter time. Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has now directed Neeson in four of those action flicks. Several of them are very similar and follow a certain formula, but this movie feels way more derivative than even the sequels to Taken (2009). In fact, this movie is practically a rip-off of Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop (2014), which Neeson plays a man trapped on an airplane after he’s threatened by a person conspiring to kill people on that plane. This movie is exactly the same, except the airplane is replaced with a train on the Metro North Railroad. Obviously, both movies are murder mysteries with action sequences peppered throughout. Both are relatively fine in their mysteries and action. Non-Stop was probably a better mystery but this movie probably has better action in that there’s arguably more action. When the plot is eventually revealed, it’s somehow more contrived than the ridiculousness that was the ending to Non-Stop.
Neeson plays Michael McCauley, an ex-officer with the NYPD who now works at an insurance agency. He has a daily morning routine, which we see in montage over the course of a year or so. Technically, it’s a routine he’s had for ten years. He has a wife and a teenage son about to go to college. Obviously, he’s doing well for himself, but he’s actually financially strained. One day, on his way home, he’s approached by a woman named Joanna, played by Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring and Orphan) who threatens to kill his family unless he does something for her. Thus begins a fairly thrilling potboiler.
The movie features some interesting performances from the supporting cast. There are still issues regarding how the cast is utilized. The desire to get to know them is under-cut by the fact that the mystery depends on us not knowing them fully. The movie is largely a guessing game about who can be trusted and who can’t, and the movie only works if it’s a true guessing game for everyone. However, the end of the movie suggest it’s not.
Joanna tells Michael that someone on his train needs to be found. Apparently, she doesn’t know if the person is male or female, young or old, and black or white. All she knows is the person has a bag and is identified as “Prynne.” Joanna wants Michael to find Prynne or she’ll kill Michael’s family. The movie only works if Joanna truly doesn’t know who Prynne is. The ending suggests that she does, which undermines the whole thing.
The question becomes if Joanna knew who Prynne was the whole time, then her whole plot and threats to Michael are unnecessary. If she did know, then there was a far simpler way for Joanna to kill Prynne than the convoluted mystery she concocts for Michael. Joanna seems to have access to a lot of resources, so killing Prynne wouldn’t be hard, so this whole plot is complicated for no reason.
This film also features Patrick Wilson who co-stars as Alex Murphy, a friend of Michael. Wilson also co-starred with Farmiga in the hit horror film, The Conjuring. That movie certainly makes better use of the two actors than this one.
Rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.