The Commuter

Jan 10, 2018

Trite, cliched, and fun.

The Commuter

Grade: B-

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows)

Screenplay: Byron Willinger, Philip deBlasi

Cast: Liam Neeson (Taken), Vera Farmiga (Boy in the Striped Pajamas)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 h 44min

by John DeSando

“You have no idea who you’re up against.” Typical dialogue from a typical thriller typically starring Liam Neeson.

If you think The Commuter is another cheesy Neeson thriller following the same weary plotline with his character saving the day, you’d be right. Yet, you’d be wrong if you didn’t think this ersatz Hitchcockian thriller was a guilty pleasure because it is. In the spirit of Strangers on the Train and Speed, this whodunit travels at the speed of a runaway train and makes Murder on the Orient Express look like a sleeper car.

Mike McCauley (Neeson) gets drawn into a murder plot by femme fatale Joanna (Vera Farmiga) on a phallic train north out of Grand Central Station (North by Northwest anyone?) with a tight time frame, of course, and his family endangered if he doesn’t help . He sells insurance and is ill-prepared for this dangerous ride.

The rest is boilerplate B movie thriller porn as it showcases a few bodies and many motives like a Golden Corral smorgasbord. As trite as it is, and you don’t need to have seen Neeson’s Taken or Non-Stop to figure what will happen, it moves like a, well, runaway train.

One fight sequence is a barn burner using everything available in the car from a guitar to an ax, seeming to compete with the memorable upstairs-downstairs fight sequence in Atomic Blonde. Both supposedly used one take, but that is arguable, yet even with heavy help from CGI, both seem seamless and get your blood speeding from your heart like, well, a high speed train.

Next time you think you’ll enjoy the surprise company of a lovely blonde, get off at the next exit and take the bus.  Or just enjoy this clichéd thriller that still manages to thrill.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at