Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
|Featuring:||Liam Neeson … Michael MacCauley
Vera Farmiga … Joanna
Patrick Wilson … Alex Murphy
Sam Neill … Captain Hawthorne
Jonathan Banks … Walt
Elizabeth McGovern … Karen MacCauley
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|Director:||Jaume Collet-Serra—“Non-Stop” (2014), “The Shallows” (2016), “Unknown” (2011), “Orphan” (2009)|
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“Lives are on the line”
Michael Macauley has happily spent the last 18 years of life dedicated to working at a life insurance company, leaving behind his former life as a police officer, to support his wife and son. And yet after his many years of dedication, his boss calls him in and informs him his position has been cut, but he is grateful for Michael’s service to the company. Michael desperately pleads for his boss to reconsider, especially since his son is heading to college soon and, as Michael admits later, what kind of work can he find at 60 years old? Still, he’s let go.
Depressed, Michael hops on the subway, as usual, hesitant to share his news with his wife. At one stop, a mysterious woman sits in front of him, named Joanna (Vera Farmiga), and proposes a “hypothetical question”: if Michael was offered $100,000 to weed out or identify one person on the train who doesn’t belong, would he do it? Michael chuckles and Joanna tells him that, if he’s interested, the money is in the bathroom of the train, and if he accepts the money, he will have until a certain stop to find the person who doesn’t belong on the train (the person’s fake name is Prinn) and place a GPS tracker on them.
At first, Michael tries to just walk off with the money. However, he is stopped by one of Joanna’s henchmen at the doors who warns Michael that Joanna has his family and that if he doesn’t follow through his family will be harmed. He also learns VERY quickly that Joanna has eyes and ears everywhere on the train. What’s Mike to do? Well he better act fast. Otherwise this will be one commute he’ll never forget.
In many ways, “The Commuter” is what you would expect of an Liam Neeson action-thriller: Liam Neeson has a certain set of skills he hasn’t used in a long time that he now has to use again, he has certain restrictions in his environment that make his situation more complicated than they first appeared, there’s plenty of punches to go around and Liam Neeson’s character, for some reason, is always a tough guy, but someone that, deep down, is a family guy at heart. Does any of this sound familiar? That is because in many ways “The Commuter” is similar or even a copycat to, as other reviewers have pointed out, to Neeson’s “Taken” trilogy (which, to be frank, should have NEVER been made into a trilogy). The only difference between “The Commuter” and “Taken” is the psychological prose that is presented by Vera Farmiga’s character, Joanna, but even then I wish the film had built more upon the psychological aspect of the film, which might have helped this film stand out more.
The bottom line is that Neeson, as myself and others have pointed out, over the past 10-15 years has been type-cast. Is it such a horrible thing? Not necessarily. When you see a film with Jackie Chan in it, are you not expecting some sort of martial arts? When you see a film with Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn are you not expecting a comedy (even though it’s usually a filthy comedy)? It is the same with Neeson. Neeson gives a relatively strong performance in T“he Commuter.” Also, cinematically, the special effects are pretty decent and the overall plot is fairly smooth. However, it would be nice to see Neeson, at this stage in his life, expand and take on projects, within the same genre, that have a little more substance behind them (more character development, etc.).
Violence: Heavy. A man is pushed in front of a bus and is killed. While following a passenger, Mike receives mace in the face. There are two fight scenes, one involving a knife and a gun. In one scene, while trying to hide from law enforcement searching the train, a man hides underneath one of the cars and the train begins moving with him underneath, and he falls off (he survives but is seen holding on to the side of the car with his feet dragging as he tries to get back on the car). One passenger is thrown out of a train and is killed by an oncoming train from the other track. A main character is killed.
Language: f*ck (1), the middle finger (1), h*ll (4), G*d-d*mn (8), a**hole (2), bullsh*t, sh*t, b*tch, bastard, pr*ck, brick (a cover up for pr*ck) (1), someone mentions their prostrate, sucks (2), b*stard (2), Jesus’ name is used in vain 5 times, and God’s name is used in vain once.
Sex/Nudity: Mild. Mike and his wife are seen in bed together at the beginning of the film and kiss a couple times. A conductor is seen flirting with a few of the female passengers from time to time. A girl is seen trying to push her aggressive boyfriend off of her.
“The Commuter,” like many other of Neeson’s films, serves as a prime example of self-sacrifice for strangers. In the beginning, Mike is easily willing to take the money and leave the train, and even when he’s on the train, and he knows his family is in danger, he is still unwilling to risk the life of an innocent passenger or any of the lives of any of the passengers on board the train. At one point, he even risks his own life to save those same passengers whom he was easily willing to mark for Joanna in the beginning. The Bible has a lot to say about self sacrifice, especially for those who are followers of Christ.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it… and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. —John 12:24-25
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. —1 John 3:16-18
Many actors, unfortunately, end up being typecast to one type or title of movie: Robert Downey Jr. to the Iron Man series, Hugh Jackman to the X-Men/Wolverine series, and Liam Neeson to the action/thriller series. “The Commuter” is a film that was written for Neeson and, frankly, no other person could properly star in the role.
“The Commuter” isn’t a bad film per se, it’s just not a great one. The performances are fairly strong, and the plot is fairly smooth. There are even some terrific moments of suspense. There is some language and moments of violence to contend with, but if you are willing to overlook some of this I would cautiously say the film is better than some—but for adults only.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.