Movie Review - The Commuter
As he's done every workday for the last 10 years, Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) has a train to catch. The mild mannered insurance salesman has made 45 minute long trip from the New York City suburb of Tarrytown, NY to Midtown Manhattan along with his fellow regular commuters, without incident for years. That of course, was until Michael had the worse day of his life. After being suddenly fired at work, due to budget cuts (or some other corporate BS); Michael has to break the bad news to his wife, Karen (Elizabeth McGovern). Like so many others, the McCauleys are still recovering from the 2008 Mortgage Crisis; which has galvanized their life savings and threatened their son's college enrollment. It's a Murphy's Law kind of a day for Michael McCauley, who ends it by taking his usual 6:25 train from Grand Central Station.
As he settles in, a woman who calls herself Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who's not a frequent rider strikes up a conversation with the beleaguered Michael. The chat leads to a doozy of a hypothetical question: Would you do something that would definitely save a life, though it would endanger another? The hypothetical turns serious when Joanna tells michael of a hidden stash of $25,000 in a bathroom, somewhere on the train then, abruptly leaves at the next stop. Michael finds the hidden $25,000 and accepts Joanna's challenge of finding a passenger with a bag that contains some important contents. We don't know what the Passenger looks like, nor do we know any other identifying features; only that the Passenger will get off the train at Cold Spring, NY. If Michael finds the Passenger before Cold Spring Station, he'll get and additional $75,000. If he fails, he'll be killed along with the rest of the passengers. If he tries to alert the police, his family will die. Luckily, Michael as a former NYPD Detective has a very special set of skills; and you could guess how it goes from there.
The Commuter marks the 4th film led by Neeson that was directed by Spanish born Jaume Collet-Serra. Though it's good to see a lead actor and director develop a chemistry, The Commuter feels too much like their previous films, especially the 2014 hijack whodunnit, Non Stop. The question you'll need to answer before you reach the theater is: Is that a good or bad thing. Personally, I liked Non Stop. There was enough action and enough mystery to keep me engaged for nearly 2 hours. The Commuter however, failed to gain enough momentum before careening into its fundamentally satisfying ending. (If you've seen a trailer, you'll know how it ends.) Though it's not as action packed as Keanu Reeve's transit mayhem classic Speed (1994), nor it is as smart as the 1974 transit classic The Taking of Pelham 123, The Commuter has enough gravitas, led by the seemingly ageless Neeson to carry you through to the end. I could balk at the paper thin plot or, the annoyingly so but, not legal similarities to the Metro North Railroad; these nit picky moments wouldn't matter to most.
In a turn of art imitating life, Michael grumbles about his uncertain retirement, in the wake of his recent unemployment. He never goes full on Roger Murtaugh but, you can tell that he's 'getting too old for this shit.' In recent interviews, Neeson has expressed interest in leaving the action-thriller genre behind. If so, The Commuter should be a film you'd want to catch before it's gone.
Rated: PG-13 @ 105 mins
NOTE: In IMAX Where Available