The Commuter starts out as both an intense and intelligent thriller. Unfortunately, this changes towards the end when it becomes a stereotypical action flick. However, it is insanely gorgeous visually!
For the first half of its runtime, The Commuter is a visually stunning thriller. Both intelligent in the story and intense as the force of the train playing a starring role in itself.
Actually, I think this was my experience for more than half of The Commuter. But it all ended rather abruptly, when the story changes into a crazy action gear. I’m not talking intensity or extra violent. Instead I’m talking about a stereotypical “hero action” movie that we saw in the 1980s or maybe even 1990s.
You know, the kind that usually starred Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis. I loved those movies and they remain classics. Mostly, however, because they represent the time they were produced and released in. And also because you knew from the beginning, that this would be all-out action.
Liam Neeson still works
Even if I didn’t like the strange turn in style, I have to commend Liam Neeson. He’s steady as a rock. Perfectly believable as a family man – with the drama this entails – and equally believable as someone who can kick your ass.
Of course, that’s probably the exact reason why he has become a senior action star.
However, I do really loathe the fact that he seems almost inhuman when it comes to pepper spray. Someone sprays the stuff directly into his face and eyes, but a few dabs of a Kleenex and he’s just fine. Just a pet peeve of mine.
Along with getting hit over the nose and cheek with nothing but a minor bruise to show for it. This was one of the reasons why I love Atomic Blonde where the beautiful Charlize Theron actually looks like someone who’s been in a crazy fight. And, come on, if a female action star can have bruises all over the gorgeous face (and body), then surely a man can as well.
Especially someone like Liam Neeson, who has never shied away from mentioning that he feels old. He even says it in this movie as well. Though not while fighting.
A damn fine thriller
What The Commuter lacks in substance (mostly in the last third), it more than makes up for in style. I mean, damn this is one Hell of a gorgeous movie. The seemingly unbroken trip through the commuter train at the beginning was enough to get me hooked.
Or later, when Liam Neeson’s character, Michael, is looking for everyone with a ticket for zone 7. The camera visually takes us around the train by going through the punched hole in the ticket.
This gorgeous style is something we’ve come to expect from director, Jaume Collet-Serra. The Shallows is another example of a movie with an extremely aesthetically pleasing style. Then again, we do love shark horror, to begin with, so he had us on the subgenre alone.
It did surprise me that the cinematographer for The Commuter wasn’t the same as on The Shallows. Clearly, this is a vision Jaume Collet-Serra has and he simply works with cinematographers that can make it work.
The Commuter reunites cast and crew
Jaume Collet-Serra working with Liam Neeson as his star is another thing we’ve seen several times. The two have made three movies in the past; Unknown Identity (2011), Non-Stop (2014), and Run All Night (2015). And yes, The Commuter does feel a bit familiar in some ways if you’ve watched Non-Stop. In the 2014 movie, Neeson was an Air Marshall on a transatlantic flight and also had to save the day.
Then again, it’s not surprising to learn that the screenwriter for Non-Stop took part in writing The Commuter. The screenwriter’s name is Ryan Engle. And while he was onboard to write the script, the story came from the minds of the two other screenwriters. It also marks the debut for those two; Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi. So it’s possible Ryan Engle came on as a fixer of the original screenplay.
And, of course, I also have to mention the Danish element in The Commuter. Actor Roland Møller (Atomic Blonde) portrays the character of “Jackson”. He does a very decent job, even if it is a very American sounding name for a character that clearly has a foreign accent. Though he sounds more Russian than Danish. Anyway, it takes nothing away from his performance and we’re always proud to have Danish actors in big productions.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson (both stars of The Conjuring franchise) also reunite in this movie. Unfortunately, they don’t actually share any scenes. But that doesn’t really matter since they are brilliant in their respective portrayals. As always! Even if you do see the plot twists coming a mile away.
This movie is definitely worth your time. Just don’t expect the ending to be anything other than a crazy action movie. A visually beautiful action movie, but still… more action than intense thriller towards the end.
The Commuter is out in US theaters on January 12, 2018.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern
Michael McCauley is an insurance salesman who is on his daily commute home. A mysterious stranger contacts him and offers him $100,000 if he identifies a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes he is caught in the midst of a deadly criminal conspiracy and that his life and the lives of his fellow passengers are at risk.