Film review: The Commuter

The Commuter is a far-fetched action film that quickly gets off track, writes reviewer Sarah Gates.

Jan 19, 2018, updated Jan 19, 2018

In the fourth collaboration between Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, Run All Night, Unknown) and actor Liam Neeson, the pair have swapped the plane from their 2014 thriller Non-Stop for a New York commuter train.

Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop turned businessman who is on his daily commute when a stranger (Vera Farmiga) sitting opposite offers a “hypothetical” scenario: for a $75,000 incentive, would he be willing to identify an individual on the train who “does not belong”.

The Commuter starts strong. The opening credits are a beautifully crafted montage of MacCauley’s morning routine, showing the passage of time and his relationships with his wife and son. But from there, things quickly go awry — early scenes are heavy with exposition and things become ever more implausible once he is caught up in the elaborate criminal conspiracy.

Neeson’s action movie career reached its peak playing an ex-CIA operative trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter in 2008’s Taken, but Michael MacCauley bears little resemblance to the clever, capable protagonists he has played in the past. He’s a character with average intellect, passable fight skills and questionable morals which are presented as honourable.

Mostly, the audience is left to ask, “Why?”.

There is no convincing reason for Michael’s “skills” being required or desired by the conspiracy; in fact, no reason for him to be involved at all. Combined with the many plot holes and clichéd dialogue and characters, this makes it difficult for it disbelief.

But The Commuter does have a strong cast – alongside Neeson and Farmiga, there’s Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern and Sam Neill – and delivers all the bells and whistles you can expect from a big-budget action flick, including over-the-top fight scenes, explosions, a down-on-his-luck hero and a couple of one-liners.

Fans of Taken 2 and Taken 3 will find The Commuter on par — and want to grab a ticket.

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