THE COMMUTER, UK /US, 2018. Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern, Killian Scott, Florence Pugh. Directed by Jaume Collett-Serra. 105 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language).
This is another fast-paced thriller with Liam Neeson. In older age, he seems to have been specialising in this kind of film, especially with the three films of the series, Taken. And this is the fourth film that he has made with Spanish director, Jaume Collett-Serra. The previous films were Run All Night, Unknown, Non-Stop.
Non-Stop provided tension in the air. This time a lot of the action takes place in a train, one of those commuter trains that travels north from New York City along the Hudson River. So, The Commuter can take its place confidently in the catalogue of exciting films that take place on trains – as well as train crashes. But, there is also some good action after the crash when the train is under siege from the police and FBI agents.
Liam Neeson is usually a hero – he has played some villains but, tall and strong, he was born to be a hero. It is only after some time that we learn that he actually was in the New York police force but left and has become an insurance salesman. He lives in the suburbs, devoted wife, Elizabeth McGovern, intelligent son about to go to college, Killian Scott, colleagues at work, attentiveness to clients – and then he gets fired. He begins to drown his sorrows with his former police partner, Patrick Wilson, noticing that the head of the squad, now a captain, is also in the bar (Sam Neill).
We have seen him on and off the train many times. This time a woman, Vera Farmiga, comes to sit with him, a psychologist asking him a hypothetical question – well at least she says initially it is hypothetical. For $100,000 she challenges him to find someone on the train who answers to the name, Prynne, who needs to be eliminated. As a former detective and feeling miserable about his situation, he accepts the challenge.
At this stage, we might be wondering what on earth we would do faced with such a challenge and the impossibility of identifying such a character on a crowded commuter train. Well, he recovers the initial outlay of the money, starts to move up and down the train. He has to use all his ingenuity, causing all kinds of disruptions and suspicions, getting phone calls from the mysterious woman who seems to be observing close-up all that he does or fails to do.
Lots of suspicious characters, lots of suspicious behaviour, and seemingly no nearer to identifying Prynne.
Eventually, as they near the end of the line, the main suspects are in just one carriage but, of course, it doesn’t end there.
Plenty of excitement, plenty of scrutiny of potential criminals, some twists and who are the goodies and baddies, and then the crash and the siege.
After the preview, there was some discussion as to whether the plot was plausible (hopefully not happening too often) and whether it all made sense, especially the role of the woman who challenged the commuter as well as her involvement in the situation that led to this fatal trip. It seemed to require a bit of thinking, connecting and linking, but it does seem that the plot, despite its far-fetchedness, can actually be explained.
On the other hand, with the fast action, not so many members of the audience will be sitting back and detachedly working out whether it all makes sense.
e-One Released January 18th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian