The Commuter Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A criminal conspiracy on a train, an insurance salesman with a particular set of skills and a lazily written plot that includes a horrible supporting cast. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke!
Genre: Action / Thriller
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Jonathan Banks, Roland Møller, Florence Pugh, Clara Lago, Colin McFarlane, Adam Nagaitis, Shazad Latif, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Zaak Conway, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ella-Rae Smith, Killian Scott, Sam Neill, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth McGovern, Dean-Charles Chapman & Vera Farmiga.
Run Time: 105 min.
US Release: 12 January 2018
UK Release: 19 January 2018
German Release: 11 January 2018
From the director of Run All Night, Non-Stop and Unknown, comes the fourth entry in the Liam Neeson action-thriller series. Until now I had no real problems with any of those flicks, I enjoyed all of them, as they had something unique to give, even though the plots had been similar to other action hits. With The Commuter, however, I started experiencing Liam Neeson fatigue while sitting through half of its runtime. It’s not that he is terrible, but after watching three films that star the same actor and is directed by the same man, you can’t help but feeling that you have seen it all before.
Michael McCauley (Neeson) is an insurance agent and commutes daily from his home in the outskirts, into the city and back. A mysterious stranger (Farmiga) approaches him and offers $100,000 if he identifies a passenger on the train before the last stop. Realising that he is caught in the middle of a deadly cat and mouse game, with the life of his family and the other commuters at risk, McCauley works against time to find that one passenger.
Sitting through The Commuter felt as if watching two different stories stitched into one movie. The opening sequence showing McCauley’s daily routine in quick cuts is absolutely astonishing and very effective. The flick keeps one invested during the first 20-30 minutes until the scene with Vera Farmiga ends. From there on, the plot changes to a spy-esq thriller that reminds a little of Strangers on a Train and Murder on the Orient Express, but without the gripping tension. It is here, when each scene becomes more ridiculous, even rehashing elements of Collet-Serra’s previous action blockbuster Non-Stop.
The narration tries to keep the viewer guessing who the bad guys, behind the conspiracy that is going on, are. I figured out who one of them was around the middle. Worst of all, the film ends on a huge weak note that manages to drag it down into the pits of forgetfulness. The dialogue is also very weak, especially once the cat and mouse game ensues. None of the lines sound like actual conversations between people, there is no natural flow and each talk becomes cheesier by the minute.
The dialogue is not the only issue this movie has. None of the characters, especially the larger supporting cast, behaved like normal persons and the quality of their performances was partially atrocious. It is obvious that writers Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi were trying to represent the different subcultures of this age’s New York, and while that is a noble try, it was the acting of that supporting cast playing those different people, which brought the movie down to a substandard level.
Michael McCauley is a family man with a wife and a son. He works for an insurance company, taking the train every day from the suburbs to New York. He is befriended with most daily commuters on his line and gives them advice on problems they have. This brings me to the biggest gripe I have with the character because as things start going down, Michael does not react compassionate or shocked, when some of the people he knows get hurt. Liam Neeson basically impersonates the persona he usually does in these films. He is a man with a past that gave him a particular set of skills, but truly, there is nothing groundbreaking about Michael McCauley that we haven’t seen in other characters as of yet.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson where barley on camera, even though both are starring in this movie. Their added screen time would not even amount to ten minutes. Then there are Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Karen McCauley, and Dean-Charles Chapman as Danny McCauley (and also played Tommen in Game of Thrones). Both their performances are unforgivably bad.
Paul Cameron, director of photography for this movie, has done a good job. The fantastic opening surprised me, consisting of those quick cuts that show McCauley’s routine life, and I was especially mesmerized by the Grand Central Station sequence at the end of the opening. Collet-Serra makes use of interesting angles inside the train, which compile to some really beautiful looking shots. The one scene I did not like was a sped-up, fake “one-shot”, of a fight in an empty wagon. Then there was also a CGI heavy scene close to the end, which looked absolutely horrific.
Verdict: In a nutshell, this action-thriller does have quite a few things going for it. The opening sequence looks fantastic and informs the audience via quick shots of the main characters daily life. I was invested in this man’s story for the first 20 to 30 minutes, as he is a down-on-luck everyday man, trying to keep him and his family above water. I liked quite a few of the shots and editing styles in this flick, as well as the colour palette used but that is about it. Problems, directorial and script-wise, arise as soon as the thrill-ride begins. The dialogue goes down the drain, the action sequences become more and more ludicrous, there is no character development and the ending is a complete let-down. One can’t shake the feeling to have seen all of this before but done much better, which is why I am giving The Commuter a 5.5 out of 10.
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