Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patriick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, and Elizabeth McGovern
Film Review by Niall Maggs
The Commuter stars Liam Neeson as an ex-cop who is caught up in a criminal conspiracy when he is taking the train home. Joanna (Vera Farmiga) offers him a deal which could be the difference between life and death.
Neeson in the lead role of a film is always a good thing, and in The Commuter there is no break in the pattern. He utilizes his charisma and style to create a cool, badass character. He can always portray the tough guy, and in this film he does it very well. He’s also believably tough, which is important. The audience feel more of a connection to the character if he’s realistic and believable, which is why Neeson really works as the lead role in The Commuter. However he’s not overpowering either, so you genuinely feel like he might die any second, therefore you’re more concerned for the character and anxious to see what happens next.
Vera Farmiga is also very good as the lead female. Her character comes across as soft, but you can tell she’s very intimidating and smart. She makes a perfect villain because of this, as you know she can switch from a lovely, warm person, to a complete psycho in a matter of seconds. The confrontations between her and Michael (Neeson) are very tense because of how intimidating and menacing she can become. However, Farmiga has very little screen time, and The Commuter would’ve benefited immensely from having her more.
A lot of people were expecting Non-Stop 2 because of the teaming of Neeson and Collet-Serra again, however it’s not as similar as you would think. It works quite well as a standalone action film, and one that doesn’t need a sequel… But because it’s 2017, and everything that comes out is a sequel or remake, I’m sure in a couple of years there will be The Commuter 2: Under Siege on a Boat… Again!
The direction is just about decent. The storytelling is very clichéd and samey; you can pin point exactly what is going to happen in the next five minutes, however the pacing was surprisingly perfect. It’s slow but thrilling and doesn’t get boring, even though Neeson is on a train for a hundred minutes. The interactions between him and the other commuters are very gripping, it’s almost as if you’re trying to work out who the mystery passenger is, along with Neeson. Films like these are great; you get to be a detective and narrow the suspects down. It doesn’t treat the audience like they’re idiots, and knows they can think for themselves to try and guess who it is. But don’t get mixed up, The Commuter is not a detective film, but rather a tense action-thriller with detective tropes and elements alongside it. The use of this suspense and tension works really well due to the number of nail-biting scenes there are towards the end. However the structure is very predictable and obvious, and the third act is a cliché fest full of lazy direction decisions, but that’s not saying the film isn’t enjoyable, because it definitely is!
There is also an element of humour, which is brilliantly done. It’s not overused or forced, in fact it’s quite hilarious at times. The jokes are all funny, and none really miss the mark because the film isn’t completely filled to the brim with them. There is the perfect combination of thrills and laughs, to take the audience on an absolute train ride! (pun intended) The tone and tight, claustrophobic feel also works very well, however there are a couple of scenes where he ventures outside of the train which don’t quite click, and they just feel out of place. They seem very forced, but thankfully it’s not a complete disaster when it does happen.
The action was pretty good and thrilling. However the cinematography was shockingly bad, constant shaky cam through these scenes. It becomes unclear what’s going on, but this is only during the action sequences, and not during the dialogue scenes. There is also a lack of development for the side characters and it only focuses on Neeson’s character. We learn hardly anything about the other passengers even though the protagonist spends most of the film talking to them!
In the end, The Commuter is a cliché cluster-mess which does nothing new for the genre. Most of the characters aren’t interesting, and the climax is predictable (even though it’s satisfying and exciting) However the tension is definitely there, Neeson and Farmiga are brilliant, and the action is exciting. The pacing is also solid, and The Commuter is a more-than-solid action thriller.