A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
Liam Neeson is that rare breed of actor that can make anything watchable, just watch “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” for proof of that. He was, by far, that film’s saving grace, along with John Williams’ tremendous score. I also like the fact that Mr. Neeson has appeared in some amazing dramatic films like “Schindler’s List,” “Michael Collins,” and “Gangs of New York” but will still take the time to appear in popcorn fare such as “The Haunting,” “Batman Begins,” “The A-Team,” and now “The Commuter.” What’s the big deal I hear you say? The big deal is that Mr. Neeson doesn’t take himself too seriously and has learned, over his forty year career, to sometimes sit back and have fun. And that is exactly what his latest outing offers us, time to sit down and switch off our brains.
Here he plays Michael MacCauley, an insurance salesman who lives in the suburbs of New York with his wife and children and who travels to the Big Apple for work by train every day. One afternoon, he is let go after ten years’ service and he struggles with telling his wife the bad news, especially since they have a second mortgage and their teenage kids are about ready to head off to college. He boards his train home, trying to figure out how to break the news to his wife when the mysterious and beautiful Joanna (Vera Farmiga) sits down next to him. Initially, she makes small talk but then tells him that her job is to try and figure out people, who they are, what makes them tick, and in the course of the conversation, she informs him that there is a person on the train who stole something that doesn’t belong to them and if he can find that person, he will make $100,000, no questions asked. He laughs it off, but she continues to tell him that hidden in the bathroom, there is $25,000 but should he take it, he will be tasked with finding the person.
She then quickly gets off the train at the next stop before Michael has time to ask her any more questions and cautiously, he makes his way to the bathroom where, just like she said, he discovers $25,000. He hesitates momentarily and then puts the money in his bag and sits back down as he tries to work out his next move. When his phone rings and Joanna is on the other end, she tells him that she knows he took the money and now he must find the person she mentioned or harm will come to his family. After proving that she has access to his wife and kids, Michael must use his skills as an ex-cop to try and figure out who the mysterious person is before the last stop, where he is told they will be getting off and by which time, it will be too late.
“The Commuter” never takes itself too seriously and that’s a good thing because, with the gaping plot holes and total absence of logic throughout, there is no way this movie could have worked any other way. However, having said that, the film is exhilarating and filled with some truly amazing heart-pounding moments, everything a good thriller should encompass. Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Liam Neeson previously in “Run All Night,” “Non-Stop,” and “Unknown,” by now is obviously very well aware of the Irishman’s traits and adept characteristics and he takes full advantage of them and as a result, there is never one dull or uninspiring moment when Mr. Neeson is onscreen. Recently, Mr. Neeson claimed that this was going to be his last action film as he is getting too old but one just has to take a look at stars like Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone, actors who are well into their ’70s, to realize that he still has a few more inside of him. “The Commuter” sets out to entertain and boy does it achieve its objective.
In theaters Friday, January 12th