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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Carrot & the Stick

The Commuter (2018) on IMDb

Plot Overview

An opening montage shows a 60-year-old guy Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) rising in the morning for work again and again in a series of same-old same-olds. He's dedicated to his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern)—he demonstrably loves her—and to his college-bound son Danny (Dean-Charles Chapman)—he helps him with his book reports—The Shadow of the Wind, Lord of the Flies, Wuthering Heights, maybe some Steinbeck. Tuition might be a problem, but he figures, “We'll find a way.” He's the salt of the earth kind of a guy.

He commutes by train to work (as an insurance salesman) where again he's fault­less, as a dependable worker. He gets a surprise severance package, how­ever. It looks like an opening scene from Death of a Sales­man; his only remaining asset to provide for his family is his paid-up life insurance policy.

He stops off for a stiff one—who can blame him? There he meets his buddy Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) whom he knew from when they were NYC cops together (“Seven years we were partners.”) Again, he was well thought of on that job. We are left to imagine that he left the police force for the sake of his family. I'm thinking along the lines of a cop in a Lou Manfredo's book who's trying to figure out with his wife how to talk their daughter out of dropping out of college to become one: (116)

“Do you know what she said to me?” he asked, his voice flat.

… “What?” she asked softly.

“She said she didn't like college because nothing there is right or wrong, black or white—every­thing is gray.”

… “Sound familiar?” he asked. “If my baby becomes a cop, she'll find out there is no right. She'll see there is no wrong. She'll see there just is.”

So Mike gets on his regular commute train home; he's letting the bad news keep till later, hadn't told his wife yet. He hasn't gone ballistic or any­thing; he isn't even self-absorbed in his own miseries; he is surprisingly chipper carrying on chit­chat with familiar passengers. He is accosted by an enigmatic stranger Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a proposition that will get him some much needed cash, and if that fails, she'll later threaten his family and others. Mike will need all his skills to perform “one little thing” for her, to find the passenger carrying a package who “doesn't fit” before they reach the Cold Spring stop. He's to plant a GPS device on the package. To accomplish it he'll need his cop-eye observation skills to spot anomalies in people, he'll need his insurance actuarial training to narrow down the field, and, most importantly, he'll need his insights gained from classic literature to solve moral dilemmas where some­body gets hurt no matter what he does. I dare say that if the characters Liam Neeson plays didn't have such “a very particular set of skills,” they wouldn't be put in movie plots where they have to go through all this awful stuff.


There's a nefarious plot afoot that the movie will explain in due course. It requires Mike's cooperation that some undesirable elements plan to get through threat to this good man's family if need be. There's actually a proverb that addresses such a scenario: (Prov. 24:15-16) “Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

Mike takes seven falls in this movie: There's the stock market crash of 2008 from which his family has barely recovered. There's his present firing for which there's “nothing to fall back on.” Then comes the train ride home. He manages to fall off the train—his was not a soft landing. He gets into three fist fights along the way. Not having his earlier characters' special fighting skills, he gets the stuffing knocked out of him. Poor guy! And that's not to mention the train wreck finale. Will he come back from all that?

As for the wicked falling into mischief, one of the last books we spot on screen is Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. If we remember the survival of its protagonist and his revenge on the bad guys who'd done him dirt, that might hint at this film's out­come. Or maybe it will be some­thing along the lines of Steinbeck.

Production Values

This thriller, “” (2018) was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Its screen­writers were Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi. It stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson who played their parts well. Minor roles, well done, include Elizabeth McGovern playing Mike's wife and Sam Neil in a small role as the police captain.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some intense action/violence, and language. Liam Neeson and Patrick Wilson had once starred together in “The A-Team” (2010). The camera-work was impressive, but some of the CGI was not up to snuff.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie had all the thrills of a Liam Neeson action flick, but instead of casting him as an exceptional fighter in a failing marriage, this time he's a slightly better than average fighter in an exceptionally good marriage. He's also a little bit older than he was, but that can't be helped. If you go into it expecting what the trailers promise, then I'd say you'll be satisfied. How­ever, do pay attention to the piece­meal explanations floated at the end to avoid being left in the dark about what was behind it all.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version (KJV). Pub. 1611, rev 1769. Software.

Manfredo, Lou. Rizzo's War. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009. Print.