The Commuter Parent Guide
This trip may offer an exciting ride for older teens and adults.
Parent Movie Review
I’ll endeavor to ignore all the incredibly tempting railway puns that dangle within my mind as I describe a movie that puts Liam Neeson into yet another plot (like the Taken Franchise) where he must save the day or his family will die.
Neeson’s character, Michael MacCauley, is a former cop turned insurance salesman (filmmakers can’t move past the notion that all NYC police must hail from the Emerald Isle). And he has just had a very bad day at the office. After a decade of successful service the 60-year-old is suddenly handed his walking papers. The bad news in compounded by the fact that he already lost his nest egg in the 2008 recession and is barely able to keep up with bills and paying his kid’s university tuition.
After downing a few beers with Alex (Patrick Wilson), his buddy and former partner in law enforcement, Michael boards the homebound train, still not sure how to break the news to his wife (Elizabeth McGovern). But one thing is certain, when Liam Neeson hops on your usual ride home from work, the trip is bound to be anything but mundane.
Michael is quickly disturbed by a chatty blonde (Vera Farmiga) who insists she’s intrigued by various personality types. Assuring her he’s already married doesn’t put the conversation on hold. Instead, he soon discovers she not only knows his marital status but also has the address of his wife and son, is familiar with his career background and understands he’s desperate for cash. So, to fix that last problem, she proposes an “easy” solution: In the train’s restroom he’ll find a package that contains a wad of cash. Then, if Michael can identify a specific passenger carrying a certain bag, he can go home and expect an even bigger payment.
Not surprisingly, if he refuses his assignment, his wife and son won’t be there to meet him when he arrives.
Ripping a page from the Alfred Hitchcock school of filmmaking textbook, The Commuter uses confinement within an always moving train to generate tension and suspense. And, if you can forget about a few cracks in the plot, the setup delivers a typical thriller product that involves an unstoppable vehicle, a ticking clock and a herd of innocent people who should have run screaming from the carriage the moment they saw Neeson’s face.
Relative to the action star’s other tangles with bad guys, this trip may offer a fun ride for older teens and adults thanks to virtually no sexual content and fewer profanities—although a sexual expletive and crude finger gesture still make their way into the scant script. As expected, what does fill a great deal of screen time are fistfights that occur in various conveniently-empty locations on the train. These violent altercations include some blood, lots of meat smacking sounds (the foley effects team had an even bigger workout) and the non-stop peril faced by surrounding passengers. This content makes it a poor choice for pre-teens (unless you desire to give new meaning to a “transit nightmare”).
By the time this train pulls into the station, albeit sideways, you may find yourself sweating with the cast of hapless characters that shared this ride. And, just like Liam Neeson can’t help himself from becoming caught up in yet another shadowy scenario, I too must release my inner desire to tell you The Commuter is on track to grease the January box office rails and might be the perfect ticket to give audiences the token ride they expect from a star with this much “esteam”.Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Neill. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release January 12, 2018. Updated January 17, 2018
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Commuter rated PG-13? The Commuter is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some intense action/violence, and language.
Violence: A character is baited with money and then blackmailed into engaging in a dangerous task. Characters attempt to fix or manipulate a train’s electrical and mechanical systems, which results in injuries, implied deaths and a spectacular derailment sequence. Characters are in peril. A character sprays mace in another’s eyes. The screenplay features frequent and lengthy depictions of physical altercations, fistfights, hitting, punching, choking and slamming into walls. Characters are thrown in front of moving vehicles and dragged under them. Gun threats, shootings, injuries and deaths occur. Corpses are seen. Some blood effects are included. Illegal activities are discussed. Characters gamble money in a card game. Thefts, lies and corruption are mentioned.
Sexual Content: A married couple occasionally kiss and embrace. A young woman on a train tries to push away her amorous boyfriend. A train conductor flits with a female passenger.
Profanity: One use of a sexual expletive and finger gesture, along with a couple of sound-alike sexual expletives. Infrequent use of mild and moderate profanity, scatological slang and terms of deity. A sexual slur and a slang term for urination are heard.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Friends get together for drinks at a bar: one of them drinks more heavily because of personal stress.
Page last updated January 17, 2018
More parents' guide for The Commuter after the break...
The Commuter Parents' Guide
What kind of person are you? What would you do if you were asked to make a choice between what is best for a stranger or what is best for you?
What kind of language does Joanna (Vera Farmiga) use when baiting Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson)? How does she downplay the seriousness of her request? How does the pressure of Michael’s financial stress make him more susceptible to her enticing offer of money? Does his situation excuse his behavior? In what other ways does she manipulate him?
Walt (Jonathan Banks), a fellow commuter, observes: “Every day is a count down.” What is the end of the count down? Have you noticed the way time passes in your life? How often do you take time to consider what you are doing with your days?
What are some obvious things that might happen if this movie's plot were to occur in reality? For example, would you notice people getting into serious fights? Or a guy roaming back and forth through the train looking at people suspiciously? How does the oft seen posters encouraging people to “See something, Say something” work to enhance our fears? Considering virtually every passenger has a cell phone, how likely would it be that other people would call the police? Speaking of cell phones, how do screenwriters work around these new technologies to convince us stories (like The Commuter) are plausible?
Wondering what situations in The Commuter could happen on a real public transit system? Brad Ross, with the Toronto Transit Commission, offers a humorous look at what you may want to consider if Liam Neeson should board your train.
Fight scenes in movies depend on enhanced audio effects, often created by “foley artists”. This Wall Street Journal article describes how these scenes are enhanced and offers a palette of sound effects to help you better understand how fight scenes are recorded.
News About "The Commuter"
In the trailer for The Commuter, Liam Neeson's character is approached by a stranger (Vera Farming) while he is riding the train home from work. Using her pretty face as a way to start a conversation, the woman asks the man, "What kind of person are you?" Using phycology, she baits the businessman by offering him money -- and then blackmails him into doing her bidding. Her question is an interesting one. Why does he entertain her proposal? What would you be willing to do for money? Why does she gain power over him? What would you do if she approached you? What kind of person are you?
Related home video titles:
Liam Neeson plays fatherly figures who aren't afraid to use weapons, in the movies Taken and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. And Vera Farming takes on the role os a mother in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Burn Your Maps.