MovieBob Reviews: THE COMMUTER (2017)

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Is The Commuter good?
It’s okay – inoffensively serviceable, mostly.

So your basic January movie with Liam Neeson?
Bullseye.

What’s it about?
Neeson is a just-getting-by upper-middle-class suburban dad and insurance salesman who…

Ooh! But he used to be a totally-badass special forces assassin, right??
Totally-badass police detective this time. But yeah, it’s one of those.

Thought so. Please continue.
Alright, so the setup is that Neeson has been commuting back and forth from work on the same train for about a decade. Then one day he’s heading back home after getting some bad news at work and a mystery woman confronts him on the train with a logic puzzle that ropes him into a deadly criminal conspiracy. It involves an unseen group of villains with a sinister agenda demand that he uses his detective skills to sniff out an unknown passenger and plant a tracking device on them for reasons that aren’t immediately clear but are almost certainly unfriendly. If he doesn’t do so – and before the train reaches a certain specific stop – bad things will happen to him, his family and maybe the whole damn train.

Huh. That’s pretty solid-sounding!
Right? Contained location, finite characters, ticking clock, sort-of relatable motivation and a clever extra twist on the typical detective story since he’s technically trying to solve THREE mysteries. Who the “out of place” target is, who’s making him do this and why and (eventually) how to get out of this situation without bringing harm to an innocent person OR himself and his loved ones.

But does it work out?
Doesn’t exactly blow your mind (you can probably guess the entire third act’s worth of supposedly-shocking revelations by the time Act I has finished setting up all the different pieces) but it gets the job done, doesn’t overstay its welcome and has some fun, ambitious small-scale setpieces. I sort of wish that it didn’t feel the need to turn into a big contrived action movie at the very end, but it sticks the landing regardless. There’s a hand-to-hand fight scene that really sings, the various investigation and “how’s he gonna get out of this one” beats are involving and well-staged – the nuts-and-bolts, meat-and-potatoes business here all plays out very nicely.

Is Neeson good?
Yeah – but, you already knew that, right? It’s almost hard to remember that when the trailers first started to hit for Taken years ago that the “gimmick” there was that it was unexpected for the dude who played Oskar Schindler to be doing what at the time we mostly called “Jason Statham movies” …and now it’s his main thing. The Commuter is a good reminded why that happened: He’s really good at the who vulnerable-invulnerable guy routine and brings an appropriate level of gravitas that helps sell otherwise shaky but obligatory exposition sequences or pandering beats like getting up in one suspects face because he happens to be a Goldman Sachs broker.

Who directed?
Jaume Collet-Serra, late of Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night with Neeson and House of Wax, Orphan and The Shallows otherwise.

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