January has always proven to be a temperamental month for films, coming off the end of award season. The season starts over into each new year with a mix bag of produced filler material that ranges from either “good” to absolute “dumpster fire” with no real balance of a middle ground. occasionally, there have proven to be some surprising exceptions.
In my first review of the year, I turn my observant and critical focus to what would appear to be another “old man Liam Neeson action outing,” with a plot that feels all too familiar. Although this film does have it’s share of flaws, “The Commuter” is a film that proves to be moderately engaging. It follows all the typical genre tropes but because of its strong performance by Neeson and its direction as well as cinematography it is a film that speeds along as fast as the train that it takes place on and all we can do is go with it and enjoy the ride.
Neeson plays the typical family man who lives and works in middle-class society. When he is abruptly fired and subsequently sent home, he goes to a local bar to drink when Patrick Wilson’s character makes his first appearance playing the generic city cop and friend to Neeson, it is also at this time when the police commander played by actor Sam Neill also makes his way into the film. After a brief conversation and a few drinks Neeson then makes his way to catch the train home and it is there he is confronted by a mysterious woman played by actress Vera Farmiga, with a sinister agenda that is revealed to Neeson in the form of a hypothetical question. “Would You Kill A Stranger For A Hundred Thousand Dollars?”
At first it is a joke to Neeson though as time passes certain events unfold that drag Neeson into the depths of alertness and paranoia when it is found out that his target is an F.B.I witness to a murder case involving high ranking corrupt officials. Liam Neeson does what he does best and puts his skills to work in a very generic although restrained fashion.
The screenplay for the film borrows heavily from previous other suspenseful thrillers ‘Strangers On A Train“ being the most obvious. The character development also feels thin outside of Neeson’s character. The direction has a cool clean focus on its end result proving to be rewarding however blatantly subtle. The cinematography adds a nice substance of suspense to the structured although isolated atmosphere of the film.
The Commuter is a film that proves to be a lot of fun although many will find it typically forgetful except maybe the die-hard fans of Neeson’s recent action aesthetic catalog. In my opinion its one of the stronger efforts despite the familiarity of it. 2 ½ stars.