It is the Liam Neeson January movie of the year.
The Commuter is not reinventing the wheel. If you are a big fan of Liam Neeson and his old man kick ass character, this one is for you. As for me, I did not hate it, but there are several problems as one might expect.
Liam Neeson is Michael MacCauley, an insurance salesman and former police officer, who has to ride a commuter train every day for the last ten years. Unfortunately, one day Michael loses his job, faces money issues as his son is heading to college, and has to figure out how to tell his wife.
So on the trip back home with all of these problems weighing on his mind, Michael is approached by a woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who presented him with a strange challenge. She offered him a large amount of money if he could find one specific person on the train.
The first part of the film was pretty intriguing to me because there was more of a feel of investigation than a typical Liam Neeson film normally has. As Michael is searching for the mysterious person, he has to eliminate the “suspects” on the train through discussion and investigation and I liked that.
The third act, however, really springs into Neeson action flick genre and it is a real stretch. There are things that happen that are not really possible and these things can take you out of the film.
The film started out with a confusing situation. They show Liam Neeson leaving his home and getting on the train and it flashes to him in different clothes and different weather and it was a bit confusing. I realized that it was meant to show that he did this same thing for years, but, honestly, the first thing I thought was… is this showing me some kind of alternate timeline? Yes, I know that is silly, but I really thought for a moment that we were getting something really creative. Then I realized the truth.
I love Vera Farmiga, but she just is not in this movie much. Neither is Patrick Wilson, who plays Michael’s former partner Alex Murphy.
The plot is basically implausible. It has so many moving parts and requires Joanna to be nearly omnipotent that if you think too much about the plot, you could be completely confused. It could have been more interesting if they had kept the focus on the “who is it” mystery that they had set up. I am really not sure how certain things happened and how the villains pulled off what they did.
Another issue is that Vera Farmiga works for, apparently, some kind of conspiratorial organization, but we never find out more about that. The results of what this organization is trying to do seems fairly low key for a group that can do what they can do.
Liam Neeson is solid again and he should be since this is the same character he has been playing for years now. He actually did some good work when he was struggling to determine what he had to do and whether he could morally commit to doing what the secret organization wanted. He plays a hero well. Some of the characters on the train were also fun and fit well with Liam.
This did not subvert what I expected. In fact, it was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be. The film was predictable (including the “twist”) and there were too many moments that pulled me out of the film. Still, as a mindless time at the theater, it was not the worst thing you could go see.