Thursday, 18 January 2018

IN THEATRES: The Commuter

Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is a worker bee in the big city. Every day for the last 10 years he has taken the train to and from work. Every day has been the same boring routine - until today. Today, his train journey will be more eventful than irate fellow-travellers and bad smells = bad guys, broken bones and explosions.

I kinda loved this movie. Not enough to remember it in a year, or make this review longer, but still, this movie hit me the right way.

Jaume Collet-Serra has been earmarked for bigger things (Akira; Suicide Squad 2) but thankfully he has never graduated to the A List. Because it would deprive us of gems like this. With Liam Neeson as his muse, Collet-Serra is quickly turning into this century's version of Budd Botticher and Randolph Scott. Where those low budget luminaries favoured the western, Collet-Serra and Neeson have carved out a niche as purveyors of mid-budget high-concept action thrillers. 

Neeson's late-career detour into elder action hero has become a bit of a joke, but of all the b-movies he has taken on post-Taken, his collaborations with Collet-Serra have been the best.

And I think this one might be the best.

The plot is a load of contrived bollocks but Collet-Serra handles the material so deftly it never matters. He brings much needed style and visual panache to material that a) does not deserve it b) would be completely unwatchable.

The standout sequence is a one-take fight scene between Neeson and one of the villains in a train car. It is a stylistic exercise, but the lack of cutting works to increase the sense of peril. For once Neeson feels like an ordinary guy trying to stay alive, rather than a superman.

Of course by the end of the movie, after he has been punched through windows, jumped between carriages and ducked another falling carriage, any sense of verisimilitude has got off a few stops back.

While the movie goes off the rails (har har) in the third act,  it adds to the fun. Once again, Collet-Serra's sure hand at the tiller ensures that this escalation does not come out of nowhere.

The acting by all concerned is solid - Neeson gets to play a more vulnerable version of his usual persona (hard to believe someone with a pedigree like his has a 'persona'), and everyone does what they have to, and they all seem to know what kind of movie they are in.

On this evidence, I hope Collet-Serra gets more and bigger opportunities to stretch his skills - but not before he has popped off a few more gems like this. He is the real star here.

Overall, The Commuter is a fun, well-made potboiler from one of the best working genre filmmakers around. It does everything you expect, but with enough style and panache to make it entertaining.

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