‘THE COMMUTER’ (2018) Movie Review – A Decent Crime Mystery With A Train-Wreck Of A Third Act
Well it’s another year and we have Liam Neeson in yet another action movie still going toe to toe against bad guys at least 20 years younger than him and somehow coming out on top. The Commuter follows Mike MacCauley (Liam Neeson), an ex-cop who during his daily commute is forced to participate in a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ only here Wally is in plain clothes like everyone else. During his search for this mystery figure he is thrown into the middle of a crime conspiracy that puts the lives of everyone on the train at risk. I really had the lowest of expectations going into this movie and didn’t expect it to be anything more than another cookie cutter Liam Neeson action flick. But believe it or not it actually turns out to be a pretty decent mystery thriller that does draw from his previous action roles but has elements of Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and is quite engaging…… for the most part. I say ‘for the most part’ because the movie completely derails going into the third act and feels very detached from the tone and pace of the rest of the film.
Look, Liam Neeson may be 65 but even I can’t deny that he’s still got it when it comes to delivering a borderline believable performance. A lot of his action appearances in recent years haven’t been that good but he still carries himself well in these movies and at the very least provides some entertaining action sequences. He’s about just as good as you’d expect him to be here, like all of his action roles he plays more or less the same character so it makes sense that he plays the part well. The fact that his character is 60 does make some things a little less believable but if you just look at this as Liam Neeson in a crime thriller being Liam Neeson it works. Aside from Neeson there aren’t really any other notable characters or performances in here mainly because barely anyone else has more than a few lines or even 10 minutes of screen-time. Vera Farmiga, Sam Neill, Patrick Wilson, and even Jonathan Banks are in the movie but in such small roles there isn’t really much to their characters. And there doesn’t really need to be much to them because the plot revolves around Liam Neeson and he does enough to hold your attention on his own.
The first two acts of the film are quite enjoyable, there is a mystery element to the story and it’s actually a fun ride following Neeson on this mission. It’s very well paced and there’s suspense lining mostly every minute of these first two acts which successfully draws you in to the film. I was surprisingly a lot more invested in the story than I had anticipated and at one point I’d have given the movie a pretty solid 7 out of 10 but then the third act happens and the writing just goes bananas and completely loses it. The mystery and suspense elements go out the window, the calculated smooth building pace comes to a halt and you get this finale that is disastrous. The way the plot is handled and closed out is both derivative of other cliche action thrillers and also still somewhat unclear. It heavily tarnished the entire film to where if it wasn’t for this final act I’d recommend the movie to people who want a decent and enjoyable action mystery starring Liam Neeson. Now my recommendation comes with a disclaimer that the first hour and a bit is good and the rest you might as well just skip.
So, in the end The Commuter surpassed my expectations and actually had me engaged in the story and the mystery of what’s going on but did end on a low note with a poorly executed third act. Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson doing everything that Liam Neeson does in these action movies so you know what you’re going to get there. If you’re at home and looking for an entertaining and slightly generic movie to check out then I guess this could work but don’t expect an epic finale is all I’ll say.