The Commuter

Posted on January 11, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence, and language
Profanity: Brief language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, including drinking to deal with stress
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and violence, guns, knife, fights, explosions, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 12, 2018
Date Released to DVD: April 16, 2018

Copyright LionsGate 2017
Sigh. Another January, another dumb Liam Neeson action movie. This one is on a train.

Liam Neeson is The Commuter, a devoted husband and father named Michael who reads every book his teenage son is assigned in school. Every day he wakes up at 6, cuddles with his wife (Elizabeth McGovern), and gets on the same train at the same time to go to his job selling insurance. Until one day is different.

First, he gets laid off with no notice and no cash severance. He has a few drinks with his former partner from the days when he was a cop, and then gets on his usual commuter train for the ride home. After ten years, he is very familiar with the routine, the conductors, and the passengers, greeting many of them by name. But this time, something is different. A woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga, magnetic and disturbing) offers him a hypothetical proposition that quickly turns real: for $100,000. Michael needs money badly. And Joanna says all he has to do is “one small thing” — identify a passenger on the train carrying a bag and known only as “Prynne.”

This isn’t one of those “it makes no sense but it doesn’t matter” movies. This is one of those, “it makes no sense and that is really annoying” movies. The twist/revelation of the bad guy is ridiculously obvious. The premise that a commuter on a New York train, no matter how regular, would be on a first-name basis with the other passengers is more ridiculous. The premise that someone like “Joanna” would be able to exert complete control over every element of the situation and yet still need Michael to figure out which passenger is Prynne, much less that he would have the capacity to do so based on the limited information he has is even more ridiculous. And then we get to the really “you’ve got to be kidding” section, basically the whole last half hour.

Remember “Non-Stop?” Same director. It’s pretty much the same movie, and it wasn’t so good the first time out. Both puts Neeson in what is essentially a locked room in motion and force him to solve a puzzle from an omniscient villain while also risking his life a dozen times in crazy fights and stunts. The fights are okay, the stunts are pretty good, the camera work makes good use of the claustrophobic setting, with only one gratuitous Speilbergian dolly zoom. But if Michael was as observant as he is supposed to be, he would have noticed right away that this script goes off the rails long before the train does.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive peril and violence, with many characters injured and killed including murders, fights, knives, guns, some disturbing images, corruption, some strong language, and alcohol, including drinking to deal with stress.

Family discussion: What would you want to know before accepting Joanna’s offer? Would you claim to be Prynne?

If you like this, try: “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” (original version), “Speed,” “Source Code,” and “Runaway Train”

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