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The Commuter
U.K./U.S.A. 2018

Opening 11 Jan 2018

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writing credits: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle
Principal actors: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill

A brilliant opening title sequence establishes this is not a run-of-mill thriller. Instead, we get the sense of a train commute to/from a major metropolis for employment day by week by years. Michael (Neeson) and Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) McCauley’s routine is slightly off-kilter with their son college bound. Michael and other regulars become well acquainted over the years: Walt (Jonathan Banks), Tony (Andy Nyman), and conductors (Colin McFarlane, Adam Nagaitis). Today though, on two counts and both personal, the proverbial rug is yanked from under Michael. Boarding the return train after meeting past colleagues (Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill) is a hassle. Then, an unknown woman (Farmiga) strikes up a conversation, posing a hypothetical question Michael replies to somewhat flippantly. Until the nightmare part kicks in. Most onboard are oblivious. As the distance from NYC increases so do the stakes, just as the number of commuters and stops to the end station decrease. McCauley’s cell phone still rings: directions become ominous, leading to confusion, subterfuge, self-doubts, and implicate irreconcilable measures.

Jaume Collet-Serra directs Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi’s tightly crafted and fast-paced screenplay; pay attention or miss important clues scattered throughout. Neeson’s consummate skill inserts nuances important to his character’s believability that the cast revolves around. Just as in the storyline, timing is critical: editor Nicolas De Toth’s cuts precisely, matching the story/train’s tempo while not wasting a frame of cinematographer Paul Cameron’s good work. Keeping to the schedule as well is Roque Baños’ music, with the entire crew onboard all the way. Whether you commute or not, this is one train trip to take as it will keep you guessing until the end. (Marinell Haegelin)

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