Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Andy Nyman, Jonathan Banks, Shazad Latif, Elizabeth McGovern and Sam Neill
Plot: Insurance salesman, Michael MacCauley (Neeson) is bribed into uncovering a mystery passenger for a bag of cash.
At this point in time, The Commuter marking their fourth collaboration together, Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson may have created their own little sub-genre. With the exception of the tonally messy Run All Night, their other three films all share the same characteristics. Liam Neeson plays an everyday man who has his world go awry in a single day. The movie involves into a Hitchcockian thriller where everyone is a suspect, a race against time is firmly put into place and Neeson gets to put his action chops to a more grounded use than the hectic world of Taken or Walk Among the Tombstones.
There are upsides and downsides to this formula. For one, it is beginning to look a little bit stale and predictable. Non-Stop and the Commuter are awkwardly similar to one another, Neeson conducting an investigation, trapped in an enclosed public transport setting. When the Commuter ends with him being forced to take hostages to buy himself more time, you wonder if Collet-Serra isn’t merely copying and pasting his scripts across. Neeson is consistently good in the role of Michael MacCauley, but his performance is hindered by the fact that the actor could do this role in his sleep by now. He might hit the emotional highs and hammer home the stakes of the story, but we have seen Neeson here so many times before. There is nothing new on offer here. On the other hand, Collet-Serra is definitely becoming more adept at directing. There are flashes of direction in The Commuter, where Collet-Serra impresses. There is a seemingly one-take punch-up in the middle of the film that is far more thrilling than we would usually expect from the director. And any thriller set in such a confined space needs a strong leader to keep afloat. Sure, perhaps the ending of The Commuter gets a little daft, but it’s no worse that other Liam Neeson thrillers out there. If anything, it provides the entertaining kick that the film needs. If anything, the Commuter begins to look too good. This is a film that boasts a stylish cast, but other than Neeson, none of them do anything. Vera Farmiga is golden in the five minutes she has in the plot, but she is basically a device to get things started. The same goes for the likes of Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Shazad Latif… whenever anyone begins to look mildly interesting, Collet-Serra has moved on, relegating them to the back-burner of the story. It thunders forward too fast to make any of its beats land. Poor Collet-Serra has a nasty habit of casting young female stars in nothing parts, before they shoot to fame and make him look like an idiot for not giving them more. Lupita Nyong’o in Non-Stop. Letita Wright in Commuter. Everything begins to look like a missed opportunity. This is the best Collet-Serra/Neeson entry yet, but ironically, his best entry yet into cinema was the Shallows, which didn’t have Liam Neeson in. Perhaps next time a hard-boiled detective character comes up, he should call Blake Lively instead…
Final Verdict: The Commuter boasts an impressive cast and fine direction, but it is another ‘okay’ thriller that doesn’t demand to be watched.