First Hit: There are excellent and overdone parts in this engaging film.
I will start with that this film was very creative in providing the audience with the setup about who Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is. He’s married, he has a very predictable routine, and he works hard to help his son get a good education. All this is delivered before the opening credits are complete. In other words, if you don’t get to the film on time, don’t bother because then the point of the film is lost.
At work one day, after closing another client on buying an insurance policy, he gets called into his boss’s office and gets terminated. Because the audience was part of his selling the insurance policy just a few moments earlier, we know how this puts him in deep financial straits.
Heading home on the train to tell his wife and son, he’s approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who gives him a proposition, find someone on the train, put a tracking device in their bag, and be paid $100K. Given the financial situation he’s in, being a former cop, and his inquisitive nature he tries to solve the riddle.
However, soon after he begins, everything falls apart and the story gets intense real quick.
This is also where the film begins to get unreal, overly complicated, and overdone. How does Joanna know exactly what is happening on the train, moment by moment, is difficult to buy. The number of fights, the length of the fights, and how undamaged Michael is after all the fights wasn't realistic. The train crash, although spectacular, was not realistic. The crash lasted too long and wouldn’t have happened in the way that it did. Additionally there are a number of other scenes that were not realistic. However, it’s engaging because Neeson is always fun to watch and he’s a great “every” man.
Neeson is excellent as Michael. He can make an unrealistic film good enough to watch and stay engaged with. Farmiga was very good as the elusive Joanna. Her calm demeanor and controlled engaging voice really worked. Patrick Wilson as Police Lt. Alex Murphy was very good and convincing as walking two different sides of the street. Jonathan Banks as another commuter named Walt was very good. His gruff, yet inviting self, worked perfectly. Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle wrote a convoluted script, which delivered action. Jaume Collet-Serra directed the film with the assurance of having Neeson as his protagonist.
Overall: Despite its flaws, it is a fun film to watch and it’s the actors that make it work.