Since 2008’s surprise action thriller, Taken, Liam Nesson has been the Hollywood go-to person for the basic, hour and forty-five minute action thriller. Grounded in realism with relatable, blue-collar characters, each one finds themselves in fantastical situations that we, as an audience, secretly wish for to escape our lives for that amount of time. However, after you see the same movie repeated with the same actor, it gets kind of dull and lazy. In the case of The Commuter, less is definitely more.
The Commuter stars as Liam Nesson as Michael MacCauley, an insurance salesman, who is unwittingly recruited into a conspiracy after meeting a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) while on his daily train commute.
While the plot can’t get much simpler than that, there are twists and turns as MacCauley experiences one of his more interesting train commutes. From the beginning of the film, we see MacCauley’s routine of spending time with his wife and son, going to work on the same train and coming back on the same train. Each day blends into the next as the routine starts over again as time moves. I feel this is deliberate from director Jaume Collet-Serra (who previously worked with Nesson in Non-Stop) to tease how Nesson’s recent big release movies follow the same pattern, as do our own lives. Simple, confined, and easy.
While I won’t spoil the movie, once Farmiga’s character sits across from Nesson and asks him to participate in a small experiment, that’s when the movie begins to take off. Circumstances force MacCauley to play along, especially the cliché taking of a person’s family. As the mystery begins to unravel and the players get involved in the game, Nesson’s character breaks out a special set of skills (they are always there) to combat his enemies on the moving train. What I liked about Nesson’s performance was that his character wasn’t indestructible; he showed age and slowed movements in hand to hand combat. He wasn’t trying to be a superhero and didn’t always have the upper hand in a fight. Once again, Nesson’s acting was top-notch because his characters, while not always three-dimensional, were relatable. As an audience, I think that we all can see ourselves doing something similar in that situation (minus the close combat fighting).
CG for the train could have been a lot better, especially towards the end where I felt the director went a little over the top in the third act. The other supporting cast members such as Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, and Sam Neill had decent performances that helped carry this cookie-cutter, workmanlike script. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s fourth collaboration with Liam Nesson might have been his best in my opinion to make me a slightly bigger fan of his (especially after I already was one with The Shallows). This action-thriller is worth the price of a matinee ticket or rental, bordering on a full-price ticket.