The Commuter – Film Review by Cal Byrne
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle
Stars: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill
Have you ever sat on the 7.14am to Dublin, metro folded in hand, brolly safely tucked under seat and thought: ‘God, someone should make a film about this!’ No? Well, Jaume Collet-Serra has. His latest release ‘The Commuter’ attempts to glamorise this most mundane of practices whilst simultaneously tying it into the now tried and tested Liam Neeson cop thriller. It’s the actor and directors fourth time working together and you get the sense they are running out of reasons for Neeson to run around shouting with a gun.
Despite this, ‘The Commuter’ actually starts off in reasonably original territory. The opening montage comprises of a strangely romantic ode to the commute: there’s toast a popping, alarms a ringing and sycophantic piano keys playing as Michael McCauley (Neeson) boards various trains in various states of weather. Michael – like any good commuter – takes it all in his stride; he is always head nodding towards his fellow passengers and greeting them with a smile. Not once does he try to avoid awkward eye contact. Now that’s a real hero.
However, things soon take a turn for the worse for Michael when his commute comes to its inevitable end. With quick succession he gets fired, gets drunk, meets an old rival and refrains from telling his wife about any of this. And that’s before any of the real shit happens. Once back on the train he is approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) with a proposal that involves singling out one of his fellow passengers for an unknown fate in exchange for $100,000. Michael, in classic cinematic fashion, reluctantly accepts.
Jaume Collet-Serra’s film never really justifies why Michael is given this mission. There are many reasons suggested – police corruption, dodgy city planning, the fact he clearly needs the money – but every time it adds a new layer the plot begins to make less sense. Suffice to say any reason for Neeson to run around a train with a gun would probably have done. Either way, the actor does his job with the usual gusto. The result of which is a particularly memorable scene that finds the Irishman lying flat on his back with a broken guitar neck in hand, covered in broken glass and being intermittently illuminated by the light of a passing train. You can imagine the rest.
Collet-Serra somehow manages to tie up this films’ many diverse strands quite well at the end. There is a return to the back-slapping commuter camaraderie of the beginning and some of the earlier anti-capitalist messages begin to make sense. However, this is not enough to make up for the mess which preceded it. Had ‘The Commuter’ kept to the behavioural science theme that the trailer suggested, it might have been saveable. However, the thinly veiled attempts to justify yet another Liam Neeson angry man thriller felt weak. Perhaps like Michael McCauley’s career in insurance, it is time for Neeson and Collet-Serra to call it a day on their working relationship.