Jaume Collet-Serra's The Commuter is definitely Taken on a Train, but with Collet-Serra's usual inventive camerawork and action choreography. Liam Neeson continues to play Liam Neeson, but hey, it could be worse.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and action superstar Liam Neeson have worked together on many films, with varying degrees of success. On one hand, you have the mysterious stinker known as Unknown, while on the other hand, you have the kick-ass low-key action thriller Run All Night. Together, the two have made a name for themselves as the perfect action duo and that mostly continues in The Commuter, a mash-up of thrills, mystery and action that’s brisk enough to be squeezed in between train stops. The Commuter might not pack many unsuspected punches, but its execution is sound and its pacing is mostly flawless, leaving an engaging, but simple and effective action flick in usual Liam Neeson vein.
Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is your “ordinary” man, just trying to get through his day. He rides the same train to work day in and day out and continues to sell insurance in hopes of paying his daughter’s college fees and providing for his wife. He lives a simple life, but it suits him, because he’s happy and content.
That all changes when he loses his job and unknowingly gets on the commuter train that is bound to change his life, when a game of hypotheticals ends up becoming life or death. Suddenly, Michael finds himself smack dab in the middle of a crooked cop coverup and now he must play ball and help the corrupt or risk his family’s life.
Many have cracked jokes at The Commuter for simply being Taken on a Train, which followed not too longly after Non-Stop aka Taken on a Plane. Sure, Neeson has sort of found his niche as a B-movie action star, but I must say that the man has an incredible amount of range.
Taken was a straight-forward revenge flick, while Non-Stop introduced us to some character dynamics. The Grey often stands out as his most influential piece of work, because it’s not quite an action flick, despite the trailers painting it to be — it’s more so a drama and a touching one at that.
Run All Night gave us an R-rated action flick that had Neeson playing a burned out drunk, which again, wasn’t quite revealed in the trailers.
Sadly, The Commuter is more in line with Taken and Non-Stop than it is The Grey or Run All Night, but that doesn’t mean it should have its ticket punched just yet.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra continues to perfect his craft as he shoots inventive camerawork and brisk action sequences that are fast, easy to follow and fun to get behind. The Commuter attempts to convolute the plot by throwing surprise characters in left and right, despite the actual twist being pretty easy to spot, but that doesn’t distract the viewers from the joy of watching Neeson run around a train, mostly pissed off, but slightly curious.
Neeson’s definitely in dad-mode this time around, with a little rust, but not enough to slow him down or make him any less believable. At his age, I’m still terrified of the thought that he’d be hunting me down, which to me makes him a viable action star. He’s your everyday man, yet he’s also that tough-as-nails bad ass that’s going to roundhouse kick you out of the window if you don’t offer up the seat next to you.
The rest of The Commuter isn’t as memorable and that’s okay. Jaume Collet-Serra‘s direction mostly steals the show, while Neeson’s continued energy fuels the film’s slower moments, which aren’t often.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga re-team for the first (?) time since The Conjuring 2, despite not really sharing screen time with each other. The bulk of the supporting cast offers up enough intrigue and mystery to keep you guessing until the conclusion.
The Commuter is mid-level Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson — it’s far from the worst thing they’ve done together, but it’s also not the best. The concept alone is enough to warrant a watch, but I wouldn’t stress any urgency on catching this in theaters.
Next stop….Liam Neeson in Space!