The Commuter (UK / USA / 15A / 104 mins) 

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern.

The Plot: Former cop Michael (Liam Neeson) is an insurance businessman who takes a daily commuter train into and out of Manhattan. This particular day started out like any other, but it won’t end the same way. First, he loses his job five years from retirement and faces the prospect of telling his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern). While on the train home, he’s approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) with a proposition. If he can identify a target on the train and carry out a simple action, then he’ll receive a large monetary reward. Michael hesitantly accepts, not quite believing it to be true. With his knowledge of the familiar faces on the train, he sets out to identify this one person but is soon drawn into a criminal conspiracy… 

The Verdict: Liam Neeson’s surprising but welcome late-career renaissance as a man of action shows no signs of slowing down just yet (he was a potential Bond at one stage). A sprightly 65, he’s re-teamed with director Jaume Collet-Serra for the fourth time for The Commuter. It’s a slight twist on their earlier film Non-Stop, set in a confined space and seeing Neeson getting into fisticuffs with younger men and showing them how it’s really done (of course).

In other hands, this could have been a run-of-the-mill thriller but the combination of Collet-Serra and Neeson elevates it a bit more. They obviously have a shorthand working together and it shows in the well-staged fight and action sequences. There’s a particularly bone-crunching fight at close quarters later in the film which suggests that Neeson has a few more years to go before he plays kindly grandfather types. The film sees Michael moving in, out and under the train with a kinetic energy so it never feels stagey.

The mechanics of the plot aren’t exactly startling, being essentially a whodunit mixed in with some Cassandra Crossing-style suspense and intrigue. However, the plot is actually reasonably good and stays on track right through to its action-packed finale. Collet-Serra keeps things moving at a brisk pace and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. A solid supporting cast of familiar faces (including some other Irish and British actors) rounds things off for an entertaining and mostly satisfying thrill ride that keeps you guessing and on your toes. The Commuter is an agreeable actioner worth hopping onto for a ride on a Friday or Saturday night.

Rating: 3 / 5

Review by Gareth O’Connor

 

  • filmbuff2011

    Liam Neeson’s surprising but welcome late-career renaissance as a man of action shows no signs of slowing down just yet (he was a potential Bond at one stage). A sprightly 65, he’s re-teamed with director Jaume Collet-Serra for the fourth time for The Commuter. It’s a slight twist on their earlier film Non-Stop, set in a confined space and seeing Neeson getting into fisticuffs with younger men and showing them how it’s really done (of course).

    Former cop Michael (Liam Neeson) is an insurance businessman who takes a daily commuter train into and out of Manhattan. This particular day started out like any other, but it won’t end the same way. First, he loses his job five years from retirement and faces the prospect of telling his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern). While on the train home, he’s approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) with a proposition. If he can identify a target on the train and carry out a simple action, then he’ll receive a large monetary reward. Michael hesitantly accepts, not quite believing it to be true. With his knowledge of the familiar faces on the train, he sets out to identify this one person but is soon drawn into a criminal conspiracy…

    In other hands, this could have been a run-of-the-mill thriller but the combination of Collet-Serra and Neeson elevates it a bit more. They obviously have a shorthand working together and it shows in the well-staged fight and action sequences. There’s a particularly bone-crunching fight at close quarters later in the film which suggests that Neeson has a few more years to go before he plays kindly grandfather types. The film sees Michael moving in, out and under the train with a kinetic energy so it never feels stagey.

    The mechanics of the plot aren’t exactly startling, being essentially a whodunit mixed in with some Cassandra Crossing-style suspense and intrigue. However, the plot is actually reasonably good and stays on track right through to its action-packed finale. Collet-Serra keeps things moving at a brisk pace and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. A solid supporting cast of familiar faces (including some other Irish and British actors) rounds things off for an entertaining and mostly satisfying thrill ride that keeps you guessing and on your toes. The Commuter is an agreeable actioner worth hopping onto for a ride on a Friday or Saturday night. ***

  • emerb

    For the fourth time, Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra team up for a race-against-time action thriller with “The Commuter”. This time the setting is a Metro-North train heading out of New York City. I always enjoy their collaborations “Unknown”, “Run All Night” and “Non-Stop” and this film is no exception. It doesn’t waste time getting bogged down in over-the-top CGI or special effects, it’s just a straightforward yet adrenalin-pumping whodunnit movie which hits all the right notes for me. It feels like one of those good solid old-fashioned action flicks you just don’t see enough of in Hollywood any more.

    In a simple but effective opening we are introduced to Liam Neeson who plays 60 year old Michael MacCauley, an Irishman in New York. He is a retired NYPD detective turned insurance agent and happily living a sedate suburban life in Tarrytown with his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) and son Danny (Dean-Charles Chapman). MacCauley isn’t having a good day. He has a second mortgage to pay and has to figure out how to pay college tuition for Danny. So when he’s unceremoniously laid off from work for no good reason and just a few years before he’s due to retire, he’s devastated. Even drinks with his ex-partner (Patrick Wilson) can’t drown his sorrows. Leaving the office, he boards his usual 6 p.m. a multi-car commuter train at Grand Central Station and quickly finds himself face-to-face with Joanna (Vera Farmiga), a mysterious and intriguing femme fatale who makes him a peculiar offer. If he can identify somebody named Prynne who isn’t part of the usual commuting crowd and doesn’t belong on the train, then he will be financially rewarded. However, if he fails his family will
    be killed. He isn’t told why and he doesn’t know what will happen to that person. All he knows is that they are carrying critical cargo and he has to plant a GPS on them. Michael is desperate for money and even though he knows it’s all very sinister, he reluctantly agrees to the bargain. At all times the enigmatic Joanna has eyes on his movements although she is no longer on the train. His fellow passengers include a kindly old-timer (Jonathan Banks), a rebellious college student (Florence Pugh and an arrogant Wall Street banker (Shazad Latif). As the story progresses, the plot thickens and Michael finds his situation becoming increasingly dangerous.

    I think it’s fair to say that Neeson is somewhat of a pro in roles like this by now but that doesn’t take from the strength of his performance here. He commits fully bringing much conviction to his gritty role and as a result, he is one ageing action hero we really care about. He’s backed by a solid cast, including Vera Farmiga who is a pivotal player but unfortunately largely off camera, instead making threats by phone. Patrick Wilson plays Mike’s former partner and confidante, Sam Neill is the colleague who made it to Captain and there are a host of other interesting and suspicious characters on board to toss us a few red herrings.

    “The Commuter” delivers exactly what is expected in a completely undemanding manner. If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful, this isn’t for you but if you want entertainment and a plot that keeps you guessing, maintaining the suspense from the off, you ought to check it out. This is a thriller with tension and style which may very well be the highlight of your January. It sure is one hell of a train ride home and a cut well above the rest.