["The Lady Vanishes" Unbound] Not enough Mike Ehrmantraut/Jonathan Banks to please my Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul inner buff...films in trains always conjure up Hitchcock, Shyamalan, etc. It is a nice entertaining sub-genre but I must say I left the theatre with a sour "this it?" after-taste in my mouth.
The title clues you in that this is going to be a more pedestrian affair than Liam Neeson's previous collaborations with Jaume Collet-Serra such as "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night." The script plays out something like Alfred Hitchcock's "Speed," before the third act literally and figuratively jumps the train, and you realize a shouting, gun-toting Liam Neeson is more of a danger to these passengers than the bad guys.
Serra and Neeson go at it again with just about the same result as with their previous outings. The first reel generates interest and promises a whole lot. The second reel is middling and drawn out and nothing really gets your blood pumping. The third reel ups the action but the action is too formulaic and by the numbers. The late plot twist is hardly surprising and does not give us the thrill that is intended.
The Commuter is a Hitchcock-esque thriller that is nuanced and thoughtful as well as being extremely entertaining and cathartic; touching upon corporate conspiracy and societal corruption as well as the negative aspects of our capitalist economy. The Commuter is a great thriller and a great train film (up there with Unstoppable and Runaway Train) and the best of the Liam Neeson & Collet action films.
The freewheelingly psychotic THE COMMUTER (literally psychosis-like), like its predecessor NON-STOP, could I suppose be taken to task for being so utterly ridiculous, but it is precisely the destabilizing fact that everywhere you look logic is caving in on itself which makes the enterprise a kind of mass-market surrealism you must surrender to. And can anybody deny that Collet-Serra possesses formidable craft?
You know what you're getting with a Liam Neeson film: a solid action thriller with gripping sequences. Post-Taken, there was 'Non-Stop' and 'Unknown' which ticked the genre box with enough enigma and intrigue to keep the film going. Neeson is always an engaging lead and he doesn't disappoint once again. The reason for two stars is that 'The Commuter' completely conforms - competent and unsurprising.
Collet-Serra's most assured collaboration with Neeson yet; a cautionary Hitchcockian morality tale that rather gracefully and naturally evolves into Bourne punch-ups and a careful dash of Bayhem. Neeson trades the brooding badass for a likeable everyman's charm and determination, and Vera shines against type as the villain.
It is frustratingly hard to see if Neeson and JCS are winking from behind the camera. With their obvious talents why not choose a better script! Or are they parodying the action formula, taking the spectacle to a plane where even my Dad finds it too silly to enjoy. The digital compositions are something else, on a level with Spielberg in RP1, but the setup is too good for where this leads. 2.5