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The Commuter – Movie Review

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The Commuter – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

Liam Neeson has really committed himself to these action heavy roles, primarily involving him punching his way through a perilous situation. It’s almost become its own subgenre with entries like Liam Neeson in the Arctic and Liam Neeson on a Plane. The Commuter has him dealing with evil on a train and despite the Hitchcockian possibilities of that premise, there is a surprising lack of tension. The concept definitely has promise, which the film explores early on. It’s also a credit to how Neeson has grown into these roles that his death-defying stunts are easily bought in this crazy suspension-of-disbelief filled world.

The Commuter sets up its premise rather simply as Neeson is tasked with finding a stranger on his train ride home. The movie even begins with a clever montage of his various mornings as he gets ready to take his long commute to work. The stakes are established, primarily given in a creepy performance from Vera Farmiga. Making the most of her little on-screen role, Farmiga displays so much of her character in that simple meeting. Even in a silly action movie like this, it’s nice to see a reminder of her acting prowess and what she brings to all of her performances. The rest of the show lies on Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra’s shoulders.

There is a curiousity factor as Neeson moves from one train cabin to the next, although this is when believability takes a toll on the audience. One imagines the other passengers being a lot more weary and suspecting of Neeson early on as he does not display normal behaviour. The screenplay establishes each character’s archetypes and provides certain hints about whether they are the person Neeson is searching for. Most viewers will know that the stranger will be the last one he comes in contact with, which removes a bit of the tension. A lot of red herrings are thrown at the screen at every turn to slightly trick the viewer.

The silliest moments come from the action sequences. If it weren’t for Neeson, these scenes would be even more ridiculous, including when he finds himself outside of the moving train. Once all is revealed, the special effects really start to take over as we get an extended finale. Sam Neill and Patrick Wilson are thrown into small roles, although they don’t leave quite the same impact as Farmiga. One hopes Neill was paid well for his two days work, although it’s difficult to complain whenever he shows up in a film. The whole film is really just another excuse for Liam Neeson to bring his action bravado to the screen.

Honestly, that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t take long to understand why these roles hold an appeal to him. The Commuter is altogether silly and lacks the proper tension to leave a heavy impact, but it’s serviceable enough. There is a B-movie feeling to these films as they don’t take themselves too seriously. Neeson is the only person who displays any level of seriousness and that oddly works in a “Leslie Nielson in Airplane” sort of way. The Commuter will be largely forgotten less than a week after the first viewing, but it’s fitting counter programming amongst the multiple Oscar-nominated features that will crowd multiplexes this month.


Stefan Ellison

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