The Commuter FILM REVIEW
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Story: Byron Willinger & Philip de Blasi
Screenplay: Byron Willinger & Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern
Rated PG-13 some intense action/violence, and language.
Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
***1/2 out of *****
A business man is a made an offer he simply should have refused in Jaume Collet-Serra's THE COMMUTER.
At 65 years young, an age at which most people would retire, Liam Neeson continues to prove he's a man of action. 1995's ROB ROY gave us a hint of his stoic and commanding presence, his action prowess and his burgeoning reputation as a bad ass. In that film, the climactic sword fight between him and Tim Roth was epic on many levels. Mostly known for his dramatic performances, and the occasional genre role, he took on the label of action star with 2008's TAKEN. Over the past decade Neeson has starred in a number of entertaining action-thrillers with the most notable ones being TAKEN, which became a trilogy and was adapted into a TV series, and THE GREY. Neeson now returns in THE COMMUTER, his fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP, RUN ALL NIGHT) and once again shows he is not slowing down in this often preposterous yet quite entertaining mystery-thriller.
Nesson plays Michael MacCauley, a life insurance salesman who has been taking the commuter train into the city for nearly a decade. Having ridden the train for so long and often with the same people one may recognize new faces on the ride to and from the city. During a seemingly routine trip home, MacCauley meets Joanna, played by Vera Farmiga, who makes him an offer he should refuse but can't resists. $100k to find someone on this train before that person reaches their stop. This sets into motion what is easily the most entertaining part of the film where MacCauley traverses the train from car to car trying to inconspicuously find this person. This is of course a Neeson vehicle, pun intended, so needless to say he won't be inconspicuous for long.
Piecing together the puzzle and trying to figure out the who and the why is often the most enjoyable part of a mystery. Writers Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle have crafted a simple yet effective whodunit. If this were made in the '90s this could have easily starred someone like Wesley Snipes or even Harrison Ford. It very much has the feel of a '90s action film like Snipes' PASSENGER 57 or Harrison Ford's THE FUGITIVE. Interestingly enough the story loses some momentum when McCauley finally uncovers the reasons why and who's behind it because we already know who it is before he does. Before it was even revealed I pretty much knew what was going to tip things off and I found myself laughing at how an event unfolded exactly as I expected it to. Despite this it doesn't adversely affect the film as a whole.
This film could have easily starred anyone but it may not have worked as well if it weren't for Liam Neeson. He is quite believable as a man who finds himself in over his head but is willing to take action when called upon to do so. Neeson gives the kind of performance fans expect and enjoy. One moment he's a broken down man not knowing what to do, next he's just a man lending a sympathetic ear and then suddenly he's a full on war machine. In terms of action he certainly delivers the goods in a number of action-filled set pieces. Neeson still has the goods. The film also stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, yes, the Warrens are in this film, as well as Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks and Elizabeth McGovern.
From its captivating pre-title sequence to its satisfying final scene, director Collet-Serra has crafted yet another easily digestible and entertaining confection full of the well-paced action one might expect to see in his films. Collet-Serra and Neeson again prove to be an effective combo in what is easily their best collaboration yet. It's no RUNAWAY TRAIN but definitely nowhere near the lowbrow cheesiness of UNDER SIEGE 2:DARK TERRITORY. It certainly isn't the type of film where you'll want to check your brain at the door since you want to engage in this mystery. It may at times be a bit predictable and over the top but THE COMMUTER is a fun and diverting ride worth taking.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal