Liam Neeson’s Latest Action Thriller ‘The Commuter’ Provides an Adrenalized Ride
“The Commuter” marks the fourth collaboration between action star Liam Neeson and thriller director Jaume Collet-Serra. Together the duo has spurred crime against the clock in nearly every form – ranging from action on an airplane (”Non-Stop”) to the bustling streets of Berlin (“Unknown”), and escaping a former mob life (“Run All Night”). The end goal in these formalized action thrillers remains the same: Neeson must fight the clock, or rather the runtime, in order to save his family, and in some cases, a few others. Alas, they succeed in their mission both in execution and entertainment value.
In their most recent collaboration, Neeson plays Michael MacCauley. He is a white-collar insurance salesman who works in the Manhattan hustle and commutes by train every morning and night to his picturesque suburban home upstate. Business appears to be as usual as he boards the Metro-North at Grand Central Station, that is until he is approached by talkative yet mystifying Joanna (Vera Farmiga).
While her initial introduction seems pleasant and rather flirtatious, her presence appears like a shark fin in the water. She tasks MacCauley with a mission to find a fellow passenger, who is not a part of the regular commute. If he fails to identify the individual, he risks the lives of the remaining passengers as well as his own family. However, if he is successful in his endeavors, he will receive a large sum of cash. Tick tock. Perfect timing, seeing as how he is unsure how he will pay for his children’s college tuition. Farmiga, as proven from her time spent at the infamous “Bates Motel,” plays off a sinister demeanor in the most elegant and smooth portrayal.
Of course, MacCauley has a past life in the NYPD – one he gave up in order to secure a sense of normalcy for his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and children. Thus giving the character the necessary edge seemingly required by Neeson’s contractual rider. However, his previous life may provide insight into the strange impromptu mission.
For Collet-Serra, whose last picture was the finely wound Blake Lively shark thriller, “The Shallows,” the director knows all the right beats to hit in order to execute a sharply timed and adrenalized action thriller. While the script, penned by Byron Willinger, Philipp de Blasi, and Ryan Engle (“Non-Stop”), fills the plot with several seemingly randomized red herrings, Collet-Serra grasps the innate ability to capture the audience, with tense Hitchcockian callbacks, no matter how low the story may dip at times.
While the script might not be as airtight as some of Collet-Serra’s or Liam Neeson’s previous endeavors, the final presentation of “The Commuter” doesn’t arrive too far behind. January is typically notable as the graveyard and dumping ground for studio fare, and while “The Commuter” tends to rub off as rather cliché at certain action points, the film still provides plenty of entertainment to allot another Collet-Serra/Neeson collaboration.
“The Commuter” opens in theaters Jan. 12.