Wednesday, 31 January 2018

#8 THE COMMUTER



Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGoven and Sam Neill. Written by Bryon Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Budget $30 million. Running time 105 minutes. Cert 15.

Typical, you stand at the bus stop, waiting for Liam Neeson to make an action film, and then, BANG! 10 years later nine turn up – er at the rate of one a year.

And so here we have his latest geri-action outing as The Commuter, the everyday story of an everyday insurance salesman and everyday family man and his everyday commute to and from work on the same train each and every bastard day. Filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, this film, which unravels in real-time, took 20 years to film, as it recorded every minute of Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) journey to and from work, sitting in the same seat, reading a newspaper, doing a crossword, talking to the other regular passengers or just conducting middling domestic chores over his phone. Wow, talk about unexpected, I was expecting an action film. Turns out all that stuff seen in the trailer was all just a dream he has when he falls asleep one day on his way to work.

Meanwhile in the real world, or at least the world of the Commuter, we follow ex-cop Michael, who after 20 years of loyal service, gets made redundant from his insurance job and makes his way home on his last commute ever to tell his wife the bad news, which couldn’t have come at a worse time since his son’s just got a place to go to Harvard!

So, when he’s propositioned by a mysterious woman called Joanne (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a challenge in exchange for a shit-load of money he jumps at the chance. All she asks him to do is to wander through the train and identify the one passenger who shouldn’t be there. The catch is he has to do it before his stop! Then she gets off the train leaving Michael with an envelope full of money and no mobile phone! Michael’s day then goes from bad to even worse when his wife and child are kidnapped to incentivize him and one of his traveling buddies is killed as a warning not to contact the police, it turns out Joanne has left behind some of her own people to make sure he does his job, which it turns out is to identify a federal witness so that Joanne’s people can kill them! Luckily, our Michael, thanks to his previous job as a policeman, has a unique set of skills that makes him a nightmare for the people behind Joanne. And as the journey continues, Michael whittles down his list of suspects and uncovers a conspiracy that could bring down the city planning department and a group of corrupt cops! Luckily his best buddy Detective Murphy (Patrick Wilson) and police chief Captain David Hawthorne (Sam Neill) are there to offer assistance, or are they? Could one of them be batting for the other team and if so, which one…

The film rattles along a pace, giving us a sort of Non-Stop but on a train, which naturally gives us the added bonus of a train crash glimpsed in the trailer.
This is an entertaining enough action romp that Neeson can do in his sleep, it’s entertaining and exciting enough and the tension ratchets up nicely until the
the third act when the tempo completely changes and all the momentum is lost with the late arrival of a siege scenario as our band of plucky passengers unite to fight a common enemy. All that’s left is a tearful reunion with his kidnapped wife (a criminally wasted Elizabeth McGovern) and his son before a final showdown between Michael and Joanne, which if you’ve watched enough of these types of films you should easily be able to guess as to how it’ll play out.

Another silly Neeson Geri-action flick that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, although it won’t be knocking the far superior 1976 Silver Streak starring Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Patrick McGoohan off the podium for best action film set on a train any time soon.

Catch it if you still can, although it might already have left the cinema concourse. 7/10




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