Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) works selling insurance. His job makes decent money, but he and his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) are financially over-extended. Everyday, he commutes into New York. His life is somewhat boring, but he seems happy enough. He used to be a cop in the NYPD, but for the last ten years has chosen to live this quieter, better paid life. Everything changes the day he is made redundant. He feels the financial pressure immediately. On the trip home, as he is gathering his thoughts, he meets a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a great deal of money, if he takes on a certain task. She asks him to identify a passenger on the train who is travelling incognito. He has to locate this person before the train reaches the Cold Spring stop. He is interested in the offer, but his cop instincts tell him that there is something criminal about these circumstances.This sets up a series of increasingly perilous and action-packed scenarios as MacCauley tries to get to the bottom of this situation and stay alive.
Liam Neeson became our favourite fifty-plus action hero when he made TAKEN in 2008; he has appeared in two more TAKEN films. The world didn’t want just Bryan Mills and his particular set of skills, we were happy to see Mr Neeson in any number movies where he beat down the bad guys. Arguably, you can draw a line from Neeson’s actioners back through the Bourne films, all the way to 1988 and the first DIE HARD movie. It’s thirty years later and we are still hooked on action heroes played by good actors who believably struggle through unbelievable physical challenges. It’s the quality of these performances that keeps us watching. A consistent Neeson collaborator is director Jaume Collet-Serra. The pair have made the features UNKNOWN (2011), NON-STOP (2014), RUN ALL NIGHT (2015) and now they have teamed up for a fourth time to bring us THE COMMUTER.
The film delivers exactly what you might expect. You are with MacCauley all the way as he moves from being concerned about the situation he finds himself in to realising that he has to risk his life to save innocent people on his commuter train. The opening of the film provides its chief point of difference as we are taken through an interesting montage of days, weeks and seasons and we understand that MacCauley’s life is settled and routine, yet he is happy with these circumstances. He is planning for his retirement in five years when he turns 65. The suspense is built slowly. After he meets Joanna, in scene after scene he investigates, asks questions and searches desperately for any clue that can help him out of his predicament. This is the stronger part of the film. As with many of these kinds of stories, it’s the need to deliver a shattering climax that proves too much for the logic of the movie. As an audience member, it’s better to apply all your logical questions on the journey home (but maybe don’t go by train.)
THE COMMUTER is not deeply surprising, but it does contain some interesting twists and turns. It is entertaining as always to see the now 60-plus Neeson go after the bad guys with top notch assistance from his body double, the stunt crew and good computer graphics. The action is mainly close-quarters stuff; plenty of fast-paced hand-to-hand combat that keeps thing tense and exciting. If you want to catch a satisfying Neeson action pic, then THE COMMUTER will take you on that journey. 105 minutes (6.5/10)