It’s funny how when you get older you start to relate to movies in a different way than you used to. The daily struggle to stay motivated at work, dealing with the daily commute and seeing the same damn faces, but not knowing their names, essentially being manoeuvred like a string puppet by the higher power we not-so-fondly refer to as “the man”. It’s all too real!
Unfortunately for Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), his daily struggle doesn’t end well, but with a golden handshake, sending him to the pub to sink some pints with an ex-Cop colleague of his, Detective Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson). MacCauley boards his usual evening train, noting the same faces he sees on a daily basis as he makes his way through the carriages to find a place to sit. He finds himself opposite a woman who calls herself Joanna (Vera Farmiga), and is one of those annoying people who can’t take a hint and just wants to yabba on. The yabbering becomes serious, though, when she poses a challenge to MacCauley, on a seemingly random basis: find the passenger on the train who “doesn’t belong”, and be rewarded with $100k.
Seems like a simple enough challenge for an ex-Cop, but of course such challenges reveal deadly catches. The monotonous commute quickly turns into a “Murder on the Orient Express”-esque crime thriller. Throw in a third of “Speed” and you’ve got yourself a movie. The race against the clock begins to find the mysterious passenger, and MacCauley has to throw on his Nancy Drew hat to solve this one. It’s here that the camera work and visual effects truly stand out, and are incredibly effective for a cinema viewing.
Perhaps “The Commuter” is a little let down by the unoriginality of the “we’ve taken your family, and will kill them unless you do what we say” formula, which is nothing new – especially for a film starring Neeson. However it makes up for this with pure action, great acting and a good mystery to keep you hooked til the bitter end. I feel like perhaps Sam Neill was wasted in this film, too – (wait, Sam Neill is in this movie!?) – he’s essentially in a role that a dancing monkey could excel at, so it’s a shame really.
All-in-all, I loved this film, but I won’t lie – I did spend a disturbing amount of time pondering when Neeson would deliver the line “I will find you, and I will kill you”. I’ll settle with listening to an Irishman say “Cold Spring”, over again, though. My advice is to go into this with just the knowledge of what’s in the trailer, and don’t educate yourself too much on the backstory. Get caught up in it, and enjoy being Sherlock for a couple of hours.