The story of a man waiting on a railway platform waiting for the 07.15 from Maidstone only to find it had been cancelled due to a train drivers strike was never going to make an enthralling 90 minute action film and mercifully the British version of ‘The Commuter’ was never made. Instead what we have is the fourth collaboration between Liam Neeson (Silence) and director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) who seems to be strangely drawn to setting his films in solitary and /or confined spaces with this latest being almost solely set on a train carriage.
It’s a bit of a disjointed start as Neeson’s Michael MacCauley, an ex cop now working as an insurance broker, is dropped off repeatedly at the station by his loving wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern in a woefully underwritten role), so as to support his children through college. It’s the same trip just a different day , every day so much so that he knows everyone else on his carriage as well as the ticket guards by name. All go about their business presumably happy that, unlike the UK, the price of their season ticket doesn’t escalate so as to fund the drivers 35hr week, extended annual leave and a salary that puts stockbrokers to shame.
But you know it can’t last and it ends pretty abruptly for MacCauley when he is fired and has to make the journey home wondering if he should tell his wife and break the news to his son that he can’t afford to send him to college. Instead Vera Farmiga plonks herself down opposite him and offers him a bundle of money hidden in the toilet just to carry out a small task before he has to get off at his station. That task is to find a and identify a particular person on the train and it would have been a short film if he didn’t go to the toilet, find the money and take it only to find he’s now made an unwitting pact.
Prevented from getting off the train until he carries out his task he finds Farmiga ringing him whenever he tries to tries to evade his mission. This has something of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ about it with Neeson desperately trying to identify the person he’s been tasked to find and the script does have a slight hiccup early on when it unwittingly gives a clue as to who it might be amongst the stock in trade characters that inhabit this type of scenario. So let the action commence because there’s not much levity apart from one laugh at the expense of Goldman Sachs – clearly a bug bear for the three, yes three, screenwriter responsible for this.
Neeson’s quest to find the person all starts off well enough and there are some ingenious moments as he slowly eliminates who it isn’t but it’s the third act where the film, having been merrily trundling along, becomes increasingly implausible before literally coming off the rails in a spectacularly ludicrous finale.
This is a typically end of a hard week, lets switch off the brain, Saturday Night type movie and for Neeson who since becoming a kick ass killer after his lead role in ‘Taken’ seems unable to get off the action man track. Likewise for director Serra, who made a great horror film ‘Orphan’ as well as Summer 2016 sleeper hit ‘The Shallows’ so immensely enjoyable, it just seems that for a movie set on a train it runs out of steam by the end.
Here’s the trailer…….