Movie Review: "The Commuter" - Believe It Or Do Not Ever - PopcornReel.com

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

MOVIE REVIEW/The Commuter
When Liam Neeson, Not Audience, Is Taken For A Ride


Vera Farmiga as Joanna and Liam Neeson as Michael in "The Commuter", directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. 
Lionsgate
       

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bad movies follow Liam Neeson wherever he goes.  (Or he follows them.)  Especially movies in the January and February months.  Commuters can be especially grouchy during these months.  After all, it is the dead of winter and Punxsutawney Phil will soon see his shadow. 

Moods are unforgiving in these contexts.  The spaces and time in between home and workplace in "The Commuter", an action drama, are recycled like groundhog day for Michael (Mr. Neeson), a businessman in upstate New York jettisoned after years of company man loyalty.  These times spent in a train become lilting romance novel fantasy where alluring and beguiling people like Joanna (Vera Farmiga) play strange Strangers On A Train games of riddle-me-this in which dead bodies randomly turn up because Michael can't find out in time who is the person Joanna needs body-bag disposal of.  I think.

"The Commuter", in other words, is a movie of incomprehensible nonsense, white male displacement and paranoia, pure gaslighting for a Donald-era that works hard to normalize nonsense.  In true xenophobic elan, the grievance-filled Michael turns into a caveman interrogator of every passenger who doesn't look like him, especially training his eyes on a Latina and a Black man with a guitar.  You don't try that on any train in New York and get away with it.  Even Bernhard Goetz kind of eventually learned that lesson.

Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Mr. Neeson in "Non-Stop", "Unknown" and "Run All Night" collaborates again with the actor here, and likes to lay on disbelieving suspension-of-disbelief real thick for filmgoers to the point where you very soon shake your head in incredulity.  If you binge-watched "Arlington Road", "Breakdown" and "The Game", all better strains of white male paranoia, misantrophy and xenophobia that "The Commuter" seeks in part to emulate, you'd have a gay old time.

In the meantime, here are my Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock questions: who is Joanna?  Where does Joanna vanish to?  Is she a figment of Michael's fantasy?  The woman with whom he would like to have an affair?  The only worthwhile question for me was whether any of the individuals the resentful Michael rudely interrupts or engages with on the train ride from hell are projections of his own cartoonish subconscious.

Michael is a cynical ex-cop, what with a sizable portion of the world's inculcated and unabiding (even now) trust of the police always conveniently helps obliterate any incredible gaping-mouthed outrage.  Mr. Collet-Serra directs "The Commuter" as a playful tragicomedy of insanity and shrug-shouldered "shit happens" escapading.  It's a fantastical glossy mess of illogic, red-herring mania.  Where on earth for example, do newly-fired sixty-something middle-class white men suddenly summon the energy to wreak havoc on an entire train without firing a single shot?  That doesn't even happen in real life.  Which I suppose is the point of "The Commuter": the enemy is Michael but he has such pained and bewildered expressions on his face that he never dares look in the mirror. 

The film perpetuates in Michael a superman-save-the-day-at-all-costs myth exalted as triumph but is really barely-veiled stupidity and male insecurity.  Karen (Elizabeth McGovern, whom I haven't seen on the big screen for a while) is committed, it turns out, to an utter raving lunatic.  Her veneer of softness, smiles and ardent support for Michael are only endorsements of the crazed mind she wakes up next to day after day after day.  Now if that's not comedy, I do not know for the life of me what is.


Also with: Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, Florence Pugh, Ella-Rae Smith.

"The Commuter" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some intense action/violence, and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 44 minutes. 


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