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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Watch This Space: July 20 – 26

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Jake Gyllenhaal is a JumpCut UK favourite, but we are being completely unbiased when we say that his new film ‘Southpaw’ looks fantastic. Dark, powerful and intense, this boxing drama is sure to be a knockout (sorry).

James Franco and Jonah Hill come together again for ‘True Story’ this weekend. Another silly comedy movie right? Wrong! A real life true story of crime and deceit; no gags, no weed and no Seth Rogen. Check out our exclusive review for a better idea of what to expect.

Disney Pixar’s latest release hits cinemas this week and from the look of the reviews from those that have already seen it, ‘Inside Out’ is a real treat. The film addresses the problems facing a young girl in everyday scenarios from the viewpoint of the different emotions inside her head that are characterised into Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger and Disgust. A story that is relatable for people of all ages, could this become one of the all-time animated greats? The early noise is very promising indeed.

Arnie returns to our screens this week in ‘Maggie’. This horror/action films is based around the onset of a zombie epidemic which Arnie’s daughter falls victim to. This doesn’t look like a classic “shoot ‘em up” Schwarzenegger film, more thought-provoking and subtle, with some definite sub-textual adolescent themes. Should be quite interesting, if Zombie films are to your liking. Check out our review for more.

ON TELEVISION

Friday 10:45 GMT: Set the alarm clock and get ready to pull a sicky because you won’t want to miss ‘The Hunt For Red October’ on More4 on Friday morning. This Cold War action thriller has a brilliant cast in Sam Neill, Sean Connery and James Earl Jones and is the film adaption of Tom Clancy’s debut novel. As far as the action genre goes, Clancy is somewhat of a powerhouse and that much is obvious if this film is anything to go by.

Friday 18:45 GMT: A 90s classic of the rom-com genre, see the late Heath Ledger in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ on Film4.

Friday 22:40 GMT: Johnny Depp stars as the notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger in ‘Public Enemies’. See if Christian Bale can halt Dillinger’s criminal gang on ITV1.

Saturday 22:40 GMT: If you love your movies dark and mysterious, then you’ll love ‘Zodiac’, the story of a crazed serial killer and the men hunting him down. Watch Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo decipher the code on BBC2.

Sunday 15:45 GMT: Our recommended family viewing this week is of the rather large and fluffy variety. ‘Beethoven’ is the perfect way to spend the Sunday afternoon on ITV2. Fun from beginning to end, this film encapsulates everything that you could possibly want from the perfect family film. 

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Step Brothers: With the news that ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ will get a sequel, we immediately thought of John C Reilly’s best live-action comedy showing. Alongside Will Ferrell, these two form one of the greatest comedy duos on the big screen and help to make this Adam McKay production one of our all time favourite comedies.

Aladdin: Also in the word of film last week, you may have seen that we reported plans are in place to create a live-action Aladdin prequel, based on the story of the genie in the lamp. We doubt that anyone will ever bring to life this magical story as perfectly as the late Robin Williams did, so enjoy the classic Disney animation and bask in the delightful voice of the legendary actor.

Blood Diamond: Last week saw the release of the first trailer for Leonardo Di Caprio’s new film, ‘The Revenant’. This time Leo is teaming up with Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu in his latest bid for that golden statue. One of Leo’s “near-misses” in terms of Oscar awards was the fantastic ‘Blood Diamond’ (he was up against a worthy winner in Forrest Whittaker for his performance in ‘The Last King of Scotland’). Set in Sierra Leone, this is a harrowing story that pits the unrelenting greed of man up against the hope that humanity can triumph in the face of adversity. A must watch, regardless of whether you’ve seen it before or not.

American Gangster: The Ashes are in currently in full flow as England take on Australia. Even though we’re obviously cheering on the 3 lions, why not take a moment to appreciate one of Australia’s greatest living actors. Russell Crowe stars alongside Denzel Washington in this crime thriller. With fantastic performances all round and with Ridley Scott at the helm, this film is exactly as good as you’d hope it to be. Don’t expect all out action from beginning to end, expect something more well thought through, polished and stylish.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal