The Commuter movie is a fast-paced thriller that somehow runs on similar rails of Murder on the Orient Express sans the visuals of course. I know it would be wrong to compare the two, that they are set in a whole different universe, the similarity might amuse you.
What kind of person are you?
The Commuter movie brings home real tension that Liam Neeson perfects once again working on the lines of all his previous action ventures like Unknown, Run All Night and Non-Stop. Hold that thought! It is the same director. Jaume Collet-Serra is known for making movies that stars Liam in his action avatar. If he hasn’t milked him enough, I don’t know who has.
The Commuter Movie Plot (Spoilers)
Even though The Commuter movie carries a questionably built plot, it goes on to feel better as it unspools. The flick kicks off with an ex-police officer, Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) commuting in a series of frames to his daily life as a life insurance salesman. One day he is fired from his job, and the whole world comes crashing down on him as he sits in a bar with his friend Murphy (Patrick Wilson) confiding in him how life is fickle.
On his way back home, his mobile gets stolen. Entry Joanna (Vera Farmiga) (team Conjuring…Yay!) who cracks a conversation with him. Hypothetically proposing a situation:
What if I asked you to do one little thing?
Her terms being it would affect only one individual on the train, in turn, offering the needy Michael insane amount of money.
Someone on this train does not belong, all you have to do is find them.
In an age where it is hard to afford a reliable detective, bumping into Liam Neeson seems like a much cheaper alternative.
As per Joanna, the mission is to find a person called “Prynne” who doesn’t belong and plant a bug tracker on him/her before he/she gets off at Cold Springs stop. Michael ends up finding the bag realizing her terms weren’t hypothetical after all.
When he tries to get off, he is stopped by a girl who hands him an envelope with his wife’s wedding ring.
If you haven’t already figured it out, they are watching you.
Michael asks one of the regular commuters Walt (Jonathan Banks) for help by writing it in a newspaper. Joanna already knows. (How?) She gets Walt killed.
Finding a man suspicious, he tags him with the tracker after getting into a fight with him.
Michael calls Murphy to ask him about Prynne. He is told that Prynne is a key witness to a suicide case of Enrique Mendez. Figuring out that Joanna is after Prynne because she wishes to kill him, Michael restarts his search. But he finds the same man he had tagged dead inside the train. He figures that the dead man wasn’t Prynne but an FBI agent who was killed because he had tagged him.
Who is Prynne in The Commuter Movie
Michael shuts down the AC forcing everyone into the same compartment. There he speaks loudly proposing the same hypothetical case that Joanna had presented him with. A man leaves the compartment making Michael smell something fishy. In an attempt to find out if he was Prynne, he follows him. He realizes that the man wasn’t Prynne but an assassin named Oliver hired to kill Prynne. Oliver (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) demands Michael to tell him who Prynne is. But he refuses and a scuffle breaks loose as Michael throws the assassin out of the window.
Later in the compartment, Prynne is revealed to be a girl called Sofia. She had a flash drive with information that would have affected some really powerful people, and was going to witness protection at the final stop (Cold Springs) of the train. On being asked why she did not go to the police, Sofia said that it was the police who had killed Enrique. She had heard the killer say:
You tried to do the noble thing, but there’s no such thing as noble.
The Final Showdown
Joanna calls Michael once again threatening to kill his family if he doesn’t kill Prynne. Michael refuses. Overtaken by madness Joanna derails the train. Bad CGI btw. The train looks like a toy when that happens.
Michael unhooks the final car from the train saving all the passengers. However, Michael warns them from getting out that their lives were still at risk. He asks them to stick newspapers on the windows.
Captain Hawthorne (Sam Neill) approaches with his cavalry convinced that Michael has gone rogue and is holding the passengers as hostages inside the compartment. Murphy is sent as a negotiator. There he uses the same ‘noble’ phrase making them figure out Murphy to be Enrique’s killer.
Murphy asks Prynne to step out but everyone starts to claim themselves as Prynne. He shoots a random guy when Michael engages in a fist to fist combat with him. He then removes the police tracker from Murphy making the Police Sniper consider Michael as friendly. Murphy is shot.
Outside Michael meets his family as Sofia tells the police what she knows. Hawthorne tells Michael that he misses him on the force.
In a sort of an epilogue, we see Joanna commuting in a train when Michael shows up in a similar manner. She defies him saying what’s going to happen when Michael shows her his police badge.
Just one little thing.
Issues with the Flick
Vera Farmiga feels like the devil, somehow knowing everything upfront with little plausible explanations.
The VFX department in The Commuter movie suffers too during the final moments when the train derails. Even though it’s something manageable and you can overlook it, the plot goes on and on. It is in those final moments that it tries to tell its story. Well, somehow I am still convinced that we could have used some of the important bits surrounding the climax in the prologue itself. For instance, the audience really doesn’t care who Enrique is. So a frame to show what had happened would have been good in the beginning.
Liam Neeson does a great job as a confused and helpless Michael. Both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are amazing at their bits. You see the climax coming from far away, although it boils down to words and only words. If you don’t theatricalize it, people often lose interest.
The Final Verdict
The Commuter movie is a good thrilling entertainer. It will keep you on your toes as you keep guessing. It isn’t, of course, on the levels of extraordinaire but it still manages to tell a tale by keeping things under wrap. I still think it could have been made better. Can be watched.