A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Commuter is a Liam Neeson thriller set on a commuter train. Neeson's character must make some hard choices and try to solve a puzzle. Violence is the biggest issue: Expect intense fight scenes, with punching, kicking, stabbing with knives, and bloody wounds. A gun is brandished, but shots are only sporadically fired. A man's head is smashed by a bus, and there's a massive derailed-train sequence with smashing and flying debris. Language includes a use of "f--k" and infrequent use of other words ("s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole"); there's also a middle-finger gesture. After being fired, a man drinks several beers in a bar. It's not exactly an airtight story, but it moves fast enough that viewers can sit back and enjoy the silly suspense and crazy action.
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What's the story?
In THE COMMUTER, Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) has worked as an insurance salesman for 10 years, riding the train in and out of New York each day, on both good days and bad. Then he loses his job, just when he needs to pay for his son's college tuition. On the train home, a woman he doesn't know (Vera Farmiga) asks MacCauley whether, in exchange for $100,000, he'd be willing to find a single passenger, one who doesn't belong, and plant a tracer on the passenger's bag. MacCauley soon learns that his wife and son will be in danger if he doesn't take the offer and follow the rules. So he goes about trying to find the unknown passenger, though each time he comes close, the game takes a new turn. When the train begins to hurtle out of control, headed for derailment, he realizes just how high the stakes really are -- and how much power the forces of evil have. Can MacCauley solve the puzzle before it's too late?
Is it any good?
Neeson's fourth pairing with director Jaume Collet-Serra, this thriller is far from great, but the duo's usual blend of non-stop action and silly suspense still works like crazy. (Their previous collaborations are Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night.) Though the plot of The Commuter doesn't really hold water, the movie moves fast enough and doles out information so cleverly and sporadically that it's possible to simply turn off your brain and go along for the speedy ride. It helps that Neeson is such a fascinating presence. Rather than a trained bodybuilder, he's a 60-something everyman/family man who's strong and charismatic while striving to do the right thing.
Virtually every shot of The Commuter is on him, though Collet-Serra also provides plenty of razzle-dazzle, including the wonderful opening montage of all the mornings of a lifetime: waking up to the alarm, drinking coffee, leaving the house, possibly arguing/possibly kissing. On the train, the camera roams up and down the aisles smoothly, passing through one empty car whose air-conditioning is broken and fluidly twisting and turning to capture all the suspects' faces. Fight scenes and action scenes may not be masterful, but they're at least clear, potent, and exciting. Indeed, The Commuter is close in spirit to what used to be called a B movie, and it's solid entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? Are different ethnicities, cultures, races, and sexes represented? Is there any commentary on their representation?
How is drinking depicted in the movie? Does the main character drink for pleasure or for other reasons? Is drinking glamorized? Is it used as a solution to problems?
Is the main character untrustworthy or unforgivable for initially taking the money? What does he learn over the course of the story?
- In theaters: January 12, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: April 17, 2018
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense action/violence, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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