There is comfort in routine. It is soothing to be able to have an idea of how the events of any given day will likely unfold. There is a sense of security in the known. But how many times does that routine fall apart and set up a chain of events that spirals further and further out of the comfort zone? The Commuter is a potpourri of elements that come together to bring some of the comfort of knowing how events will unfold, but still has enough surprises to keep the viewer’s attention. Let’s take a closer look in our review of The Commuter.
The opening scenes of the film establish the routine of life insurance salesman Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), as he moves through the events of his day, showing a progression of time, and how interchangeable one day is for any other. He has a wife and a son who is about to enter college. Both are doing well enough, but we are all on that edge of falling into deep financial trouble. Slowly we see his routine begin to unravel, with the advance of time slowing until the day in which the majority of the movie takes place.
On that day, MacCauley is fired from his job, finds himself drinking with an old friend with less than perfect results, has his phone stolen, and almost misses his train to get home. He then hits the point where his day goes from bad to worse. On his train home, he meets Joanna (Vera Farmiga) a new face on his commute, who poses a hypothetical situation for him; would he, for $100,000, find a person who doesn’t belong on the train, and identify them to her? As she exits the train, the hypothetical begins to become real, and MacCauley finds himself in a series of twists reminiscent of a Hitchcock suspense film, as he tries to unravel the mystery of the unknown commuter and save his family from a complicated criminal conspiracy.
The film moves at an accelerating pace, and the events keep the viewer guessing throughout. Although there are plenty of familiar pieces as we’re swept along. The bits that were predictable often led to places that one would not expect to go. And in that, the screenwriters did a good job of keeping the viewer off balance. The film holds together exceptionally well until the train, literally, comes off the rails. Up until that point, the realism and the suspense were on point, and I was transfixed, waiting to see if I had puzzled out the mystery. The derailment of the train took me out of that moment, and I thought that the film had gone too far. I was hooked back in very quickly, however, and I am glad to say that the film finished off as strong as it began, and I did NOT put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly.
After leaving the theater, however, questions came up, and logic began to poke holes in the fabric of the film. The conspiracy that was so well organized as to keep MacCauley under their control the whole time, having anticipated things that he would do to try to thwart them, how did they not know who the mystery passenger was? In retrospect, it seems like a complicated and convoluted plot, and there must have been a simpler way for the conspiracy to have met its goals.
While the weaknesses do detract from the film, when considering it afterwards, the film does a wonderful job, in the moment, of sweeping the viewer along at a breakneck pace, and keeps one guessing throughout the runtime. If you are looking for a way to rush into 2018 with some excitement, suspense, and a few leaps of logic, then The Commuter may be what you are looking for.
About The Commuter
Synopsis: A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Byron, Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle
Stars: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson
Runtime: 1 Hour, 44 Minutes