“The Commuter”: Liam Neeson forced to become elderly superman in a stereotyped train wreck thriller

The Commuter” (2018), directed Catelonian Jaume Collet-Serra (story by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi), is a slick B-movie thriller that lets an aging Liam Neeson, as former cop now turned insurance executive Michael MacCauley, play almost comics-style superhero in a sabotaged and runaway train scenario we’ve seen played out many times.

I’ve summarized a lot of them in a review of “The Last Passenger” (think “Unstoppable”, “Runaway Train”, “Silver Streak”, “Source Code”) and even Hitchcock’s 1951 classic “Strangers on a Train”.  And there is always “Murder on the Orient Express”.  And think of other thrillers like “Transsiberian”, or even “Snowpiercer”.

The film opens with some scenes of family routines at a family home in the far northern suburbs above Westchester County on successive August mornings. MacCauley has a teen son whom he must put thru college and the family has two mortgages on its house, legacy of the 2008 financial crash.

Then Mike has a really bad day in the City, and as the film progresses we suspect someone has done a masterful job of setting him up. He gets laid off from his job, and consoled about his severance. In a bar, he meets his former police colleague, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson). He boards the commuter train on the Metro North home, and then the coincidences really pile up.

Quickly a mysterious Hitchcock-character woman Joanna (Vera Farmiga) sits down next to him and aggressively starts a conversation, asking what kind of person he is.  She offers him $100,000 if he can find a particular witness on the train, but warns him that he is making a deal with Mephistopheles. He can signal acceptance by finding the first $25,000 in a train restroom.

He does so, and soon is warned by a street urchin that he is being watched.  And soon the bodies start piling up and clues mounting of some kind of Mafia conspiracy. But why did they go so far to just target him, and, of course, his family?  Even his firing is part of the setup, and there seems to have been some sort of problem when he was a cop, and it wasn’t racial profiling.

The film builds up to the inevitable train wreck, but not until after some under-carriage heroics (and I thought about “The Great Locomotive Chase” even).  Patrick Wilson’s character does some of the hostage negotiation.   For me personally, without my own family, this is potentially a grave issue if I ver get caught up in something like this (reference).

I don’t recall that the Metro-North makes so many stops in Manhattan or Bronx. I last used it in 2014 (picture above).

The film is a 2018 release, not part of the Oscar rush.

Legacy reviews of “The Last Passenger“; “Strangers on a Train“.

Name: “The Commuter”
Director, writer:  Jaume Collet-Serra
Released:  2018
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2018/1/13, fair crowd
Length:  104
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Lionsgate, Studio Canal
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 11 PM EST)

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