Like a hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day or your mum’s signature dish, there’s something so familiar, so comforting about a Liam Neeson movie. His gruff tones, trying desperately to cover up his Irish accent, the epic fight for his family, the twists, the betrayals - it's all so beautiful. Neeson’s good-guy-saving-the-little-guy flicks have become a staple of each cinematic year. They’re something that pop up sometimes without warning, but they’re always welcomed with excitement and anticipation. Sure, there’s not a vast difference between pictures - save for where it’s set and who it is he’s saving, but I never seem to mind. Do you? Liam Neeson just seems to have that thing. You know that thing. That thing that makes you want to hug him, sit on his knee and tell him what you want for Christmas, but you also never ever want to cross him. You know... that thing.
In Neeson’s latest violence-ridden misadventure through a major metropolis, he plays Michael MacCauley; a family man preparing his son for the (insanely expensive) joys of college and putting food on the table by selling insurance. When he’s unexpectedly let go, it’s a long ride home on the commuter train to break the bad news to his wife (Elizabeth McGoven, ‘Downton Abbey’). While on the journey, he’s approached by a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga, ‘The Conjuring’) who tasks him with finding an unknown passenger in exchange for a lot of money. You see, Michael used to be a cop and therefore possesses a particular set of skills (wink, wink). With the desperately needed cash in hand, it’s hard to say no and so with a ticking clock, dead bodies piling up and his behaviour drawing more and more unwanted attention, Michael must find the passenger that doesn’t belong before it’s too late.
What should be an awesome, tension-filled thrill ride is nothing more than a mildly excitable trip on a commuter train.
What should be an awesome, tension-filled thrill ride is nothing more than a mildly excitable trip on a commuter train. While the stakes are high you’re never really sure if they’re real, and director Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Non-Stop’) does little to keep them present and exciting. Okay, so perhaps everything will be turned around wth MacCauley’s mad sleuthing skills? Nope. For an ex-cop he’s a bit bumbling, never really brings anything Sherlockian to the table, and spends the majority of the film pacing the aisle of the train reading tickets. Thrilling stuff. This is Collet-Serra and Neeson’s third time together, and perhaps it’s time to find a new muse. Serially a “fun/cool but just okay” filmmaker, he’s definitely got a good foundation for great action-adventures but he doesn’t seem to have the balls to go all-in and really blow everyone’s hair back.
With little action to break up the seemingly never-ending trips from one end of the train to the other and the aggressive phone calls between Farmiga and Neeson, there’s not a lot to hook you except the vain hope that it’ll get better. Once again, this one is just okay.