Another enjoyable Neeson thriller that makes some favourable changes but remains littered with plot holes
It seemed like more of the same when the initial trailer dropped for Liam Neeson’s latest action-thriller The Commuter. However, the Northern Irishman’s latest team up with director Jaume Collet-Serra sees a number of favourable changes from their last few films together, but not enough to cover over all the cracks.
The film follows dedicated husband and father Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), who is coming to the end of one of the more challenging days of his life when he boards his usual train home. However, on his routine journey he bumps into the mysterious Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers up a reward if he can do one little thing for her: find the person on the train that doesn’t belong. After taking up what was seemingly an easy task though, Michael begins to realise that Joanna and her employers may have more sinister intentions, and with time running out, he finds himself in a race to find his target before the end of the line.
The Commuter places Neeson in a slightly different role than usual with the film accommodating more to the actor’s age. Michael, at sixty years old, isn’t the hardened action man we’re used to seeing Neeson play, and on more than one occasion, is beaten down, being forced to rely on his brains rather than brawn. Michael is also a more morally ambiguous character than Neeson has played in previous Collet-Serra films and is nowhere near as experienced. His character is set up nicely at the beginning to give him believable motivation throughout and it makes for an interesting change to the decisive and driven characters Neeson has played in the past.
The film plays off the typical ‘whodunit’ set up, which keeps the air of mystery high for the first two acts. Michael’s attempts at figuring out who the anomaly is on the train, is really where the script is at its best. Watching him try to pry information out of other passengers whilst still posing as a regular commuter makes for some of the more tense sequences that are well-written.
However, it is the third act that begins to let the film down as a lot of the tension grinds to a halt. Without giving too much away, it feels like the film is about to end, but then we have an extra twenty minutes or so in which predictable revelations occur in a way that is very on-the-nose. Whilst this is consistent with the overall tone of The Commuter, it is none the less a throwaway ending that leaves everything wrapped up a little too neatly and begins to really drag.
As for the glaring issue present throughout the film, The Commuter is incredibly far-fetched in terms of its plot. Granted, the movie is more grounded than Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous films, but it does still contain certain plot-holes and conveniences that can’t be overlooked. Such things include people having knowledge of things they couldn’t possibly know and actions being taken far too quickly for it to make sense. To the film’s credit, a lot of this is only really noticeable in hindsight, but even so, there are some moments that are so inexplicable that it completely takes you out of the film.
The performances are pretty solid all around. Neeson is in top form and, even at 65, proves himself to still be a great physical actor, with some of his fight scenes being very impressive. Patrick Wilson is also enjoyable as Officer Alex Murphy and Vera Farmiga is charismatic as Joanna, even for the short time she’s on screen. The supporting cast does a good job as well, with even the comic relief characters never really outstaying their welcome.
Overall The Commuter is exactly what you’re expecting for better and for worse. The film is an enjoyable action-thriller that sees Neeson in a slightly altered role, but it still suffers from glaring plot holes and a predictable finale.
The Commuter, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, is distributed in the UK by Studio Canal, certificate 15.