Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenwriters: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle
Runtime: 105 mins.
Australian Release Date: 18 January 2018
Previewed at: Palace Central, Sydney, on 11 December 2018.
Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest film, The Commuter, is yet another high-octane thriller from the Catalonian action director but it’s let down by a preposterous script. It does pack a punch, however, so if you feel like a diversion that’ll keep you guessing, this B-movie accomplishes what it sets out to do. The down side is that it will keep you guessing because, frankly, the story is so unlikely. It is the fourth collaboration between Liam Neeson and Collet-Serra, after Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night, so they obviously think they’re on to a good thing.
Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is an ex-cop who now holds down an ordinary job as an insurance salesman. Every weekday he wakes at 6am to join his fellow workers on their daily commute from Winchester County to Grand Central Station in New York City to face another ordinary day. We learn that he has regular financial commitments like every other ordinary man - think school fees and a mortgage - but on this particular fateful day he is given his marching orders by his employer, so he understandably pops into a bar on the way home before heading off on the Metro-North Railroad back to his ordinary existence. However, his now extraordinary day takes an even sharper turn for the worse when he finds himself caught up in a challenge to beat the clock. On the train he is contacted by a mysterious woman who introduces herself as Joanna (Vera Farmiga) and gives him the difficult task of identifying a person on the train who is not a regular commuter. The person is being pursued by an unknown group who are out to kill him/her. Michael is given an ultimatum: find the person, or his family will suffer the consequences. He is also given a financial incentive, a hefty payout, which will get him through his newly acquired unemployment. Faced with little choice, Michael sets out to identify the unknown commuter.
The ensuing drama is occasionally quite engaging as Neeson once more delivers a solid performance as a man who finds himself caught up in a situation not of his own making. He’s surrounded by a supportive cast that includes Sam Neill as a suspicious cop, Captain Hawthorne, who Michael knew from his past career and who carries an air of malevolence, throwing doubt on which side he’s on. Collet-Serra takes his audience on a rollicking train ride but you could drive this locomotive through the plot holes because they’re as gaping as the mouths of the tunnels on the track. It’s a shame; The Commuter is far from a masterpiece but it has some masterful sequences that are enough to make you feel as if you have been on a wild ride. Only as long as you are on it, though - you’ll forget it as soon as you leave the cinema. It does give Neeson another chance to add to his ever-increasing list of roles as the reluctant hero; it’s getting a bit tired though. He should think twice before playing this character again.