THE COMMUTER (2018)

The Commuter is the new film by Jaume Collet-Serra, the man who brought us “Non-Stop”, “Run All Night” and “The Shallows”. I love his brand of films and I love his sensibility. I always knew that I would love this film and I did. There is something really captivating about controlled thrillers and Jaume understands the dynamics of these thrillers really well. Non-Stop unveiled inside a plane through the course of a journey, Run All Night happened through the course of one night and The Shallows had the lovely Blake Lively trapped on a piece of earth in the sea that would go underwater with the next high tide and bring a marauding shark, that has been waiting patiently within striking distance of her.  The Commuter, as you might already be aware, unfolds inside a passenger train between the points our hero Michael (Liam Neeson) embarks and disembarks from the train.

Michael is an insurance salesman. He is 60 years old and has the burden of his family on his head. He is literally hand to mouth and on this fateful day, he loses his job. After a couple of drinks with his friend from the police force, Alex (Patrick Wilson), Michael boards his usual train back to home. En route, he meets Joanna (Vera Farmiga), a smart and fast-talking woman who tells him that he could have 100, 000 dollars if he helped her track down that one person who did not belong on the train. He was best suited for this job as he had been traveling on the same train for nearly 10 years and practically knew every traveler. Unaware of the risks, Michael takes out a part payment for the job hidden in the washroom of the train. Soon he finds himself blackmailed by Joanna to do as she asked of him or lose his family. Michael must now find a way to save the life of an innocent that he is forced to point out and also find a way to save his family.

The Commuter gets into the top gear from the get-go. Once the basic premise is set up, the film doesn’t stop to take a breath. Even the scenes where the film is setting up the characters and the milieu are interesting. As Michael moves through the crowd, we along with him are judging the individuals too which suddenly turns into a search for that one person whose reveal would save his family. The film not only has the usual thrills associated with such a search, it also has some great twists and turns that most will not be able to foresee. That is one of the film’s biggest strengths.

Vera Farmiga is there for just 2 scenes and in these two scenes, she exudes enough charm and charisma to take you into her character. When Michael is on a call with Joanna, her voice is enough to convey her personality and mood as in her intro, her character is wonderfully set up. This constantly makes us take her villainess seriously and doesn’t let the fear factor in the antagonist to drop. Patrick Wilson has an important role to play. His character becomes important only towards the end of the film and it is one of the best twists of the film. It is a well-kept one as well.

Liam Neeson is tailor-made for films and roles like this. The man also doesn’t seem to age. He has stopped aging post the Taken series and wherever I see him, I see him playing the same character and I still love every bit of his every role. Commuter too is not different. His character here is another variation of the character of Taken, Unknown, Non-Stop or Run All Night, but when it is so well done and likable that nobody is going to care to complain. Apart from being super cool and super believable in the most unbelievable action sequences, Neeson brings the right feel and expressions to the characters that is bound to make one and all feel the character’s frustration and anxiety. This adds to the charm of the film.

The action sequences are limited but they are superbly done. One of the most tense and well-done action sequence is one where Neeson is nearly run over by the train itself. The manner in which he regains his composure and gets back up on the train sent shivers down my spine. The climax is well done too. I love the few hand-to-hand fight sequences that are there. The cinematography and editing in these sequences are particularly worth a mention as it successfully avoids the “fast cut” and “show all angles” cliché that is so overused these days to conjure a sense of velocity and momentum that is actually not there. These fights feel real and provide a sense of physicality that makes them tense and on the face.

The Commuter is a tried and tested formula presented with a new story and the same old lovely Liam Neeson. You are either into these films or you are not. If you loved the previous films of this type then you will love this one. If you haven’t then you may easily skip this one. However, if you ask me, this film could really lead you into developing an acquired taste if you haven’t seen any of the previous films of this type. Just don’t think too much about the reason and logic and please don’t go crazy when a 60-year-old Neeson gets recruited in the FBI.

Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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