Loads of disappointments here. Number one is that you have seen it all before. This is just another film starring Liam Neeson in which he is put in a situation in which he has a set amount of time to use his brawn and brain to solve a problem set before him. Isn’t it just Non-Stop but on a train instead of a plane? It even features Neeson with a talented female co-star (this time Vera Fermiga instead of Julianne Moore), who is completely underutilized. Another example of Hollywood having precious few original ideas.
Having a bad day is an understatement for Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson – Silence, Battleship). The former cop, who has been working as an insurance salesman for the past decade, has just been fired at a time in which his eldest son is set to start at Syracuse University. He and his wife (Elizabeth McGovern – from television’s Downton Abbey) already had some money worries, so this is not going to help things. Taking the train home from New York City to the suburbs as he does every day, Michael has a lot on his mind.
His mind is not eased when a stranger decides to sit with him on the packed Metro-North train. Her name is Joanna (Vera Fermiga – from television’s Bates Motel) and she strikes up a conversation with him. In the beginning it seems like the woman, who says she is a behaviouralist, is just giving him a moral question to ponder. It soon becomes clear to Michael that this is not the theoretical question she at first claims it to be. He is stuck in a situation he cannot seem to get out of.
Joanna, who disappears as quickly as she appears, tasks Michael, for $100,000 in cash, with finding the one person on the train who does not belong there and is carrying a bag. He has to find the person before a certain stop. Time is ticking. As time goes on Michael realizes he is caught up in a high level conspiracy. Lives, passengers and his family, depend on Michael doing what Joanna wants. It is a situation that is really going to show Michael truly “what kind of person” he is.
Now that all the Oscar films have been released and movie goers who are interested in that kind of thing are trying to see them all before the show, it is a kind of dead period for movies. Almost like the action film shlock that we have come to accept during the summertime, January and February are not months in which you are going to get many quality films being released. Most films you go to see during this time tend to fall into the forgettable category.
The Commuter can be rightly described as forgettable. It is not painful per se, but it is not something that you will think back about. What was painful about the film was the awful CGI. This was most apparent on seemingly simple things like the background scenery. I have not seen such bad scenery as that seen out the window of the train in The Commuter in a very long time. Really no excuse for that in this day and age.
As for the story, it takes a serious backseat to the action aspect. The further that we get into the conspiracy the less it makes sense. Several of set up to be clever twists really just are nonsensical. This is no Hitchcock level tale despite its aspirations.
Not only is this something we have seen before it is something that Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, The Shallows) have done together before. They have done this kind of high octane, time being a factor thing before in Run All Night, Unknown and Non-Stop. Collet-Serra, born in Barcelona, is a director who has made quite a niche for himself constructing thrillers which put a human in large than life circumstances. Amazingly, he has been somewhat successful using a 65-year-old as an action hero. That to me shows the sad state of the acting pool in that genre today.
Oh, and if you are expecting to revel in the talent that Fermiga possesses don’t think that is going to happen as she appears in just two scenes in the film. Most of her contribution comes in the form of a voice on the phone to Michael.