The Commuter is a film that takes the daily commute to and from work experienced by people around the world to a whole new level. It takes something that is associated with the mind-numbing experience of public transportation and taps into the secret desire of most workers to make this trip exciting. This is reminiscent of the Keanu Reeves classic, Speed, where an unknown entity threatens the lives on board bus unless someone meets their demands. This screenplay is a familiar storyline that attempts to bring energy and intrigue to the mundane daily experience.
Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) lives a Ground Hog Day existence without the humorous or mystical elements. A life insurance agent who is trying to figure out how to make it through life in suburbia. Then one day he is made redundant from his work and contemplates how he will tell his family. While deep in thought about his situation on the daily train commute, he is presented with a unique opportunity by a stranger known only as Joanne (Vera Farmiga), to earn a significant amount of money from doing one thing on the train. The unemployed insurance agent and the former police officer must figure out what he is to do for the sake of his family and to save the lives of everyone on the train before the end of the line.
Liam Neeson has worked with Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) on three other projects and what seems to have come from this working relationship is familiarity without originality. This partnership has led to a formulaic aspect of their films which may appeal to Neeson’s fanbase but fails to deliver anything new in cinema.
In the same category as 2002’s Phone Booth and a multitude of other films that use the omniscient and ominous voice on the other end of the phone as the antagonist, even Liam Neeson looks a bit tired of this storyline. He still manages to deliver the necessary intensity for this type of role, but the script and tone leave him with nothing to add to the predictable action. With the focus being on Neeson throughout the film, Elizabeth McGovern, Sam Neill and even Vera Farmiga are left to be bit parts that provide very little in the end. The Commuter is a film that has been done before and done better, but it gives something to the grassroots Liam Neeson fans. Falling into the category of predictable and forgettable, this is a film that should never have left the station.
For those who have been chomping at the bit for more of the Taken series and Neeson’s dark and brooding method of action hero, this is the film for you. For those looking for a more ‘action contained on a train’ experience, get along to Murder on the Orient Express.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and reaping, only to give to one who pleases God. – Ecclesiastes 2:26
One lesson that comes out in The Commuter is that in amongst the mundane aspects of life, we can find what matters. The familiarity of life can seem a bit monotonous at times, but the structure of waking up each day, our work and our family life give us purpose and direction.
Many of us desire the ‘action adventure’ that we see in many films and this is the escapism that continues to drive Hollywood. We all wonder what we would do if a stranger walked up to us and offered us 100,000 dollars to do one simple thing. The conclusion of most of these films shows that it is not something we truly desire.
Instead, why not look at life as a gift. Each day is an opportunity to live. Why not see amongst the supposed mundane aspects of life the adventure that comes with each new morning. The Bible shows that each day is a gift for us to accept and utilise. What are you doing with this day?