The Commuter

Year: 2017
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill

Written by Chris Gelderd

From the off, this is better than the 2015 Collet-Serra / Neeson debut ‘Non-Stop’. The whole film is more restrained, as it can be, and suits Neeson much more than recent offerings, taking into account his age and the daft logic of these films. Basically, Liam Neeson does ‘Murder On The Orient Express’. Sound good? Then you’ll enjoy this guff.

Think ‘Speed’, blended with ‘MOTOE’, with a hint of ‘Strangers On A Train’ and you’ll have the dumbest Agatha Christie / Alfred Hitchcock modern-based thriller ever. First Collet-Serra had Neeson save a passenger airline, now we are on the ground on a passenger train across New York. It’s 100mins of everything you’ve come to expect from our Irish pensioner.

The fact the whole film is much more…grounded, I think is the word… makes it more enjoyable. It’s marketed as a thriller and actually plays out like one for a good hour or so before it rewards us with that over-the-top, laws-of-physics defying action finale and cliché plot twist. Yeah it’s been done before, we probably know who the villains are, but we didn’t expect a masterpiece. If you did, then you’ve come to watch the wrong Liam Neeson film.

He’s got the Academy Award nominations. He’s got the critical and fan acclaim for his entertaining and equally powerful movies. He’s been a Jedi Master, trained Batman and been a talking tree monster. Now he’s having fun in his prime by taking down bad-guys as the “ordinary man” who happens to always have a particular set of skills in a variety of “ordinary situations”. Today he sells life insurance, is a former cop, and can’t leave a train without his family being killed if he fails his task. But he’s not going to let that happen – cue the chaos.

Well, no, first, put the chaos on hold and actually let the thriller unfold. It’s a well paced and interesting set-up that takes it’s time to introduce us to the key players in a clever opening credits sequence and then doesn’t rush getting us into the main story. When it arrives, then it’s time to focus and watch it unfurl. But, yes, it does get a little slow during the mid-section because it literally just is Neeson stalking the aisle looking for his target, throwing as many curve balls and clues and twists as possible to keep us and him guessing. It hits a point where nothing seems to really happen for a long time and we are stuck padding out the plot until we can move on to the next.

Set in, on and around a packed commuter train for the rest of the movie, it’s simple to follow and Neeson does what he does best – he stalks back and forward, talks angrily on mobile phones, finds suspicious packages and weapons and packs one hell of a punch before disarming people with a charming smile. He’s got so much respect that it’s hard to not enjoy him now in whatever he does, because he puts his all into it and doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He knows what you expect and he’ll give it to you.

The action and slow burning “who-dunnit” style tension suits him much more than the god-awful OTT ‘Taken 2’ and ‘Unknown’. He actually doesn’t do too much in the first half that he couldn’t do in real life, and there is a certain hand-to-hand/guitar/axe fist fight that looks pretty damn impressive and Neeson never looks out of his depth doing this.

With support from Patrick Wilson, Vera Famiga and Sam Neill, you know one,none or all of them must be shady, and you’ll probably guess straight away, but maybe you won’t. They are as invested as Neeson in driving the story and taking things seriously, which is good. Apart from that, the time is spent with actors you won’t recognise, which works in the plot’s favour as its these “nobodys” who may hold the key to the puzzle, so we have no idea who it could be, and you’ll be guessing all the way through.

So, yeah. It’s not a game changer at all but it’s one of those decent 100min popcorn action thrillers that will satisfy all those who to watch something of the “best film with Liam Neeson set on a train” genre. Turn your brain off and just have some forgetful fun!

Chris’ Rating: 6.0 out of 10

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