Since making a phone call in Taken and issuing a cautionary ultimatum to some nasty sex traffickers (like there are any other kind), the action star image of Liam Neeson has grown stronger and stronger. It is remarkable to see how Neeson has flourished in this late career boom and delivered a consistent output of engaging and massively enjoyable films, be it fighting wolves in the wilderness or hijackers at high altitude. Well, despite false claims he was finished with punching people, ol’ quick hands is back in action again in The Commuter, his 4th collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) and one hell of a fun throwback to the ‘90s.
Hard working ex-cop and dedicated family man Michael MacCauley (Neeson) makes the regular rail commute to his job but one day he is unceremoniously let go. Needing the money and at 60 years old, how ever will Michael tell his wife and kids he has lost his job? But this day is about to get interesting, as the worried commuter makes his journey home and encounters a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) on the train, who temptingly offers him the chance to make $100,000. All he has to do is find out which of the passengers doesn’t belong on the train, before it reaches its destination and tell her who it is - thus sentencing a random person to an unknown fate.
Recalling the likes of Speed and Air Force One in its kinetic thrills and unashamedly much embraced preposterous concept, The Commuter is a film that blends Hitchcockian turns and Agatha Christie-esque mystery, alongside conspiracist sub-plotting and some white knuckle pre-millennium thrills. Throwing in moments of American anger at the banking system, a few plot twists and some ridiculously enjoyable goings on, Collet-Serra creates a slick ride that knows precisely what it is and where it is heading.
So what if certain sub-plots don’t really go anywhere or if this public-transport set Cluedo game stretches realism or if the CG set piece (a nod to The Fugitive) in the final stretch is OTT? Never, does this crowdpleaser fail to entertain and with its Unstoppable-like backdrop and scenes of Neeson dispatching people with guitar heads and axes, The Commuter is an irresistibly fun ride, with its star once more being a perfect conductor for Collet-Serra's vehicle. After the paranoic intrigue of Unknown, the in-flight delights of Non-Stop (a similarly vehicular action mystery from this actor-director pair) and mob revenge beats of Run All Night, The Commuter once again shows how well Neeson and Collet-Serra work together because they understand what they are making.
As Michael, Neeson uses his believable badassery alongside his everyman charisma to anchor the movie with his commitment to its franticness. At 65, seeing Neeson clobber wrongdoers is still a stimulatingly simple but effective formula and long may it continue. The supporting cast of some familiar faces also keep you seated, with Vera Farmiga being rather creepily ambiguous in her part, her Conjuring cohort Patrick Wilson offering reliable support and it is always nice to see Sam Neill.
The Commuter is a ‘90s high concept action thriller that is well worth the fare and is another brilliant entry in the Neeson season collection! This writer only wishes more commutes were this gratifying, that said, if we ever see Neeson boarding our train we may take an early stop before all hell inevitably breaks loose.
THE COMMUTER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAUME COLLET-SERRA / SCREENPLAY: BYRON WILLINGER, PHILIP DE BLASI, RYAN ENGLE / STARRING: LIAM NEESON, VERA FARMIGA, PATRICK WILSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7/10