Screen Entertainment

The Commuter: Neeson solid but unspectacular

Re-teaming with his Unknown director after their 2011 outing, Liam Neeson's supposed retirement from action thrillers sees him taking part in an action thriller, writes Darren Bevan. 

Neeson is Michael McCauley, a straight and down-the-line insurance seller, whose life is a daily routine.

From the morning commute to the office, to the routine of trying to sort money for his son to go to college, McCauley is a straight arrow.

But it all changes one day, when with retirement closing in, McCauley is made redundant.

As he takes the train home, he's approached by a woman (Vera Farmiga) who sits opposite him and offers him a Faustian deal — someone on his train doesn't belong there. Find out who they are before the commuter train terminates its run and net a cool $100K.

Given only a short time to decide, McCauley finds his hand forced as a race against time begins.

The Commuter has a clever premise, one that's ripped from the pages of a pulpy page-turner.

But on screen, Collet-Serra seems unable to bring it to life with a series of coincidences and incredulities crippling parts of what unfurls.

(Let's not even start with the insane concept that perhaps people actually talk to each other on a US train).

Neeson is solid but unspectacular as he rolls out yet another take on a man with a special set of skills.

(Fortunately, his character is an ex-cop this time around). It's easy to see why Neeson would take the gig as it plays on the everyman-forced-to-do-extraordinary schtick that's become his thing.

However, with dialogue that lays everything bare, and a shaky cam ethos, Collet-Serra at times feels like he's beating you across the face with the film, rather than letting the piece breathe naturally and its subsequent rhythms grip and thrill you.

As the script grows ever more ludicrous, with red herrings and a bizarre take down of Goldman Sachs that's supposed to be middle America responding, Collet-Serra orchestrates the whole film into a train-set CGI spectacle that's unfortunately more laughable than laudable.

Muddled and frankly average at best in its stolid lumpiness and old school "charm", The Commuter is an action film and script, ripped straight from 1980.

Unfortunately, it's 2018 — and this kind of thing is possibly best shown either on TV or on a flight on a plane where coherence isn't fully embraced.

For Neeson, it's about time this action train was stopped — and he was allowed the dignity of getting off. 

Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

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