Friday, July 28, 2023

Review: The Commuter (2018)

There's so much substandard fare on Prime, that to come across a film which is actually exciting and interesting is worth shouting about ... The Commuter is one such film.

Over lockdown we have become used to seeing films with very limited casts and set in isolate locations. They're usually possession-type plots, or ghosts, as these are easiest to create on a budget, and many simply have no followable plot and disappointing endings - if you can even get there. You can usually tell this sort of film by the Red Flag that the writer, director, producer is all the same person (and sometimes they also do the make-up, costumes and probably make the tea as well!)

The Commuter however is just pre-lockdown and is written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle, and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who you might remember helmed the superb Blake Lively vehicle The Shallows. The film stars Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga and has a simple premise. A cop, Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), travels the same route to work every day, taking the same train. And so he recognises the same people on the train every day. Now hitting sixty, he is abruptly fired from his job, and travels home in some despair. But. On the train he meets a women, Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who asks him to locate 'Prynne', the alias of an unknown passenger on the train whom Joanna claims has a stolen item. Joanna tells Michael that he will find $25,000 in the bathroom and be paid a further $75,000 when his task is done. She leaves the train, and Michael finds the money in the bathroom ... it all seems genuine. But when he tries to leave the train he realises that his family is in danger, and that whoever Joanna works for is watching his every move.

The film then slowly escalates into a nightmare for Michael as he tries to track down the mysterious Prynne, with deaths and intrigue and a whole 'you cannot trust anyone' vibe. Very enjoyable indeed ... and the ending pays off what has come before.

My main concern with the film was why, if they had all the resources and money to pay Michael, terrorise his family, cause people to be killed, and to watch his every move, why didn't they know who this Phrynn was, what they were carrying, and do their dirty work themselves?  It all seemed a little contrived to set all this up just, it seemed, to torment Michael.

However Neeson gives a powerful performance of a man on the brink, and the acting from all the supporting characters is great (including Shazad Latif who you might recognise as Clem Fandango from the series Toast).

Well worth 105 minutes of your time!

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