It requires Film Critic Tom Smith-Wrinch, a man with a particular set of skills, to review Liam Neeson’s latest action film the Commuter
It seems that Liam Neeson just can’t catch a break. Mirroring his 2014 Thriller, Non-Stop his use of public transport simply isn’t working for him. Walking into the film, one has certain expectations regarding the character Liam will be portraying: rugged, pragmatic and unequivocally menacing. Fortunately for fans expecting this regurgitation, this husky silver fox doesn’t disappoint. It is safe to say that, having watched this rather twisted rendition of hide-and-seek on a moving train, audiences will leave movie theatres in a state of suspense, paranoia and an undoubtable eagerness to catch an Uber back home.
The Commuter follows the journey of Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), who like most tired commuters, wants nothing more than the quiet life. Unfortunately for him, he ends up getting fired, helping a terrorist organisation, joining a world of political corruption and, potentially, becomes responsible for derailing a train. And who said that the daily commute was a drag? That said, the movie is unnervingly tense throughout, who on the train (as said in the trailer) does ‘not belong’? Who must Neeson find? And, inevitably more importantly, how in the hell is an ageing and jobless sixty-year-old going to summon up enough energy to save his family, his fellow commuters and (potentially) the fabric of government itself?
Saying that, Neeson has done this rodeo for the past seven movies now so anything else is little much of a surprise. In fact, you have to feel for the man’s family at some point- constantly threatened, held hostage and in some instances, killed all in order to provide audiences with the elements of the ‘Neesonesque’ cat and mouse thriller that we have become so acclimatised to. Just leave the family out of it for once Liam. During the film, one is sucked into this universe of suspense, danger and the unparalleled greyness of the inside of a metro train. Interestingly, the film attempts to introduce the morality behind human psychology within- ultimately becoming ensnared by the rather sinister Joanna (Vera Farmiga), MacCauley must decide to save the ones that he loves or help a syndicate realise relatively malignant ends, making a bit of cash in the process. I mean, for a man his age, perhaps enrolling in much more innocent expenditures such as the local Lollypop man might seem like the logical and indeed, less dangerous option. But what would a Neeson film be if it adhered to logic? The man is unemployed, over sixty and basically had enough with life and yet he still finds time to jump trains and kill terrorists throughout the film. Where would the fun be if Neeson chose such a quiet life?
Having said that, one must touch upon the less appealing aspects of such a film. Taking inspiration from elements of both Agatha Christie’s, Murder on the Orient Express and the rather less refined, Fast and Furious series the movie does seem to lack originality and, at times, direction. If you want to see Neeson act as the forlorn yet equally intimidating pensioner, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, this over-used rendition of the doting action man may seem to drag into one hell of a long train ride. One mustn’t confuse a lack of imagination with a lack of entertainment however. For all that it is worth, this latest instalment into the conflicted world of Liam Neeson does indeed provide moments of intense suspense, claustrophobia and ultimately, a thrilling commute nonetheless. And for that, the film is in itself a success. Despite flawed logic, an unoriginal and regurgitated plot line and the perpetual greyness of this public train the movie will draw audiences in. As all good thrillers should.
Verdict: Drawing us into a universe of corruption, deceit and mystery this picture doesn’t fail to adhere to Liam’s movie motto of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That’s all that can really be said for such a film, however for Neeson I will say this and only this; In future, just get a bloody taxi.