Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review: THE COMMUTER (2018) Starring Liam Neeson


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern, Andy Nyman, Jonathan Banks
Runtime: 105 min
Rating: PG-13 for some intense action/violence, and language
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.

The Commuter Liam Neeson movie Image


Review by Popa Razvan

Liam Neeson is back starring as an everyday man confronted with overwhelming odds as he tries to figure out a mysterious conspiracy aboard a train. Sound familiar ? Maybe because Neeson is reunited with director Jaume Collet-Serra, with whom he's worked before on "Non-Stop", a similarly plotted film aboard an airplane. The two have also collaborated on two other films, "Run All Night" and "Unknown". This one is perhaps not their best work together, but it's still wildly entertaining, flying in the face of logic and somehow getting away with it against all odds, much like the film's protagonist.

Neeson stars as Michael MacCauley, a family man who commutes to work everday. The film opens with a montage that highlights the MacCauley family's daily routine and Michael's interactions with various people during his commutes, efficiently laying down the foundation for the film's plot. Then, one day, Michael is fired from his job as a life insurance salesman after 10 years, and boards the train home for what is about to be the ride of his life. He is approached by a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga), who proposes a deal that would earn him a considerable sum of money, but would have consequences of the deadly kind for one of the passengers on the train. What is at first a hypothetical situation soon becomes a matter of life or death as his own family is threatened unless he can find one particular unknown passenger and plant a GPS tracker on that person.

The Commuter 2018 Liam Neeson

There's a moral dilemma in there somewhere, but it never gets much traction as MacCauley ends up being a clear cut character with few shades to his personality. He plows through the plot towards a by-the-numbers conclusion. He's also an ex-cop, a fact revealed early in the film, which is essential to the plot. The character might not be as interesting and complex as others in Neeson's collaboration with Serra, but the decisions he's forced to make and the running around putting the mystery pieces together all work because Neeson is a terrific actor who can turn the most ridiculous plot beats into (semi)plausible character moments. The plot itself is also of the nonsensical kind, but Serra makes it very easy to just slip into it if you're willing to give it a break when it goes off the rails (pun intended). The supporting characters, however, are the film's weakness, bland and poorly written. Farmiga, who could have been a very interesting antagonist, is only in the movie for a couple of minutes and then spends the rest of the film as a voice on the phone. Very disappointing.

While Liam Neeson is still capable of handling this kind of one-man show, he might be getting a little too old for the action sequences. That's where visual effects come into play. One particularly crafty moment focuses on a fight scene between Neeson's character and a bad guy inside the train. In this scene Serra employs the use of CGI effects to create the illusion of seamless single-take shots, and of various props getting smashed. It's a fairly tense sequence, but poor application of effects makes it look fake in the end.


And speaking of the CGI, the visual effects are not as good as I'd hoped. The trailers spoiled the film's train crash, a pivotal set piece that occurs towards the film's final act. The whole thing is ruined by atrocious CGI, a clear casualty of the film's modest $30 million budget. Sadly, throughout the entire film the effects are lacking or stick out when they shouldn't (as mentioned above). Perhaps Serra was over-ambitious given the small budget. Whatever the case, it's not the kind of thing you want to notice when the big action gears up.

Aside from some clunky action and unfortunate visual effects, as well as the convoluted and occasionally nonsensical plot , "The Commuter" is an okay thriller. It's nothing out of the ordinary, and it's not likely to spark any debates once you're done watching, but if you're looking for an unpretentious thrill ride led by an excellent actor, this one should do the trick.



  • Liam Neeson
  • An interesting premise
  • Entertaining enough if you overlook the bad parts

  • Bad visual effects
  • A by-the-numbers plot and dull characters
  • Farmiga is wasted



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