The Commuter: An Undeniably Engrossing Thriller

Liam Neeson in The Commuter.

A captivating whodunit (or rather, a who-is-it), a thrilling action film, a jab at the 1%, and a morality tale… all delivered with the breakneck efficiency one has come to expect of director Jamue Collet-Serra.

By Daniel Lima

The Commuter is a film I am ecstatic to have seen in theaters.

With his trademark B-movie flair and Liam Neeson’s familiar yet engaging performance, Collet-Serra has crafted his best film yet. Neeson is Michael Woolrich, a middle-class insurance salesman with piling debt who commutes to work daily by train.

While on his way home, he receives a proposition from a mysterious woman: find the person who doesn’t belong, get paid a grand sum, no questions asked. While his Taken role has cemented the sexagenarian as a ruthless action hero, Neeson’s previous collaborations with Collet-Serra have explored his vulnerabilities, casting him as an everyman.

Here, he is the physical manifestation of the American middle-class: a face in the crowd, capable yet pushed around by unseen forces greater than himself, manipulated into turning against his peers for the promise of a way out. This may be a well-worn trail for Neeson, but the panic and frustration he exudes put him in a league above fellow genre stars.

As interesting as the political subtext is, Collet-Serra knows why you’re watching this movie, and he delivers an impeccably paced action-thriller. The search for the mysterious odd-person-out, while telegraphed a bit too well at the start, is undeniably engrossing.

As the pressure mounts and the stakes rise, the claustrophobic confines of the commuter train create a sense of frantic paranoia leaves one on the edge of their seat. This tension is released in some of the best action of the decade, most notably a breathtaking one-shot brawl that sees a guitar used as a melee weapon.

Rather than seek to subvert traditional genre conventions, The Commuter chooses to perfect them. Nowadays relegated to the direct-to-video market, Collet-Serra brings back the taut thrillers of yesterday to the big screen in marvelous fashion.

The Commuter is the first fantastic film of 2018.