Everyday, in cities all over the world, hundreds of people ride commuter trains. Some don’t have the money or needs to live in the city where they work, so they are forced to live miles away. They can’t just drive to work, so the train is their only viable option. It’s a ride that some like and some don’t, but it’s something that we all must do at some point in our lives.
There are also a variety of people that ride the train. Lots of people form different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, families, etc. It’s hard to tell exactly what a person is like just from their appearance. While it’s easy to assume who they are and what they are up to, most of the time they are only fantasies and the truth is something completely different.
For Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), his regular commutes between his insurance job in New York and home has become a regular routine for the last decade. He gets up, listens to the news, gets dressed, greets his family, heads to the train station, rides the train in, goes to work, and then goes home. He does this everyday, with almost no break in the process.
But on one ride home, Michael is approached by a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga). Claiming to be a psychologist, she proposes a task for him: to find a hidden passenger before a specific stop and receive a substantial cash prize. He is unsure, but because of his major financial problems, decides to participate. Soon he discovers that more is going on, and must find the passenger before his family and everyone on the train become targets of a conspiracy.
For almost ten years now, Neeson has been stereotyped as a common action star. He was once famous for playing historical figures, even receiving an Academy Award nomination for Schindler’s List. But ever since he starred in the 2009 film Taken, he has developed the persona of an aging, ex-special forces guy thrown into outlandish conspiracies involving terrorists or corrupt corporations.
While The Commuter is no different from his other action films, it still manages to be a very fun and intriguing mystery with some nicely unexpected twists. First, it’s Neeson’s performance that really keeps the film going. Even though he’s playing the same character as the last seven or eight films he’s been in, there is a certain charm to his delivery that makes him very entertaining.
The story has been told many times before. It’s a simple formula that involves a seemingly normal family man who is an ex-cop pulled into a criminal conspiracy that threatens his family. It’s a formula that has been well worn, especially by Neeson. This one almost exactly mirrors his 2014 film Non-Stop. However, it uses the formula to its advantage. It’s very predictable and unbelievable in places, but the mystery has enough surprises up its sleeve that kept it consistently fun.
Neeson and the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, have always been a decent pairing. The two have been behind a number of these action films, and though Neeson is a helpful factor in making the films fun, Collet-Serra also has a hand in that. Surprisingly, the director REALLY knows action scenes. They are intense and exciting, and don’t really feel rehashed. Even though we know that Neeson is going to win, it’s an exciting ride seeing him beat the crap out of the bad guys.
The Commuter is a rehashed plot with a predictable execution, but Neeson’s regular charm and Collet-Serra’s finely crafted action sequences make it one entertaining film. What makes this movie good is often enough to look over the more unoriginal moments. I’m not saying it’s a total reinvention of the action genre, but if you’re looking for some fun this slow January, it showed prove relatively diverting.