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Film / The Commuter

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"A passenger on this train doesn't belong. They're carrying a bag, but you don't know what it looks like. All you have to do is find them before they get off."
Michael MacCauley

The Commuter is a 2018 Action Thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The film stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, and Sam Neill.

A woman offers Michael MacCauley, an Irish-American NYPD member turned insurance agent who returns home by train, $100,000 if he helps her find a hidden passenger before the last stop. The man takes the money, after which he realizes that he is the victim of a perverse blackmail scheme.


The Commuter contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Jonathan Banks plays a character named Walt.
  • Affably Evil: Murphy is genuinely polite despite being part of the conspiracy.
  • Badass Beard: Jackson sports an impressive beard that adds to his mysterious, somewhat tough nature. Tony and Jimmy also have beards, but they don't pull off the vibe although Tony does participate in the I Am Spartacus moment.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: It turns out that dirty cops are involved with the conspiracy, and this is why the witness had gone to the FBI instead, knowing that the killers of her cousin were in the NYPD.
  • Bait the Dog: Both Murphy and Oliver seem helpful, but turn out to be working for the conspiracy.
  • Big Bad Friend: When Michael gets surrounded inside of a derailed train cart with a group of hostages, his best friend and former police colleague Det. Lt. Alex Murphy comes in to negotiate. After a slip of the tongue, Alex reveals he is working with the criminals and is responsible for directly involving Michael, but did it to help with his money problems as he thought Michael wouldn't ask any questions.
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  • Bottle Episode: Except for the opening, the movie takes place within the train.
  • Chekhov's News: Enrique Mendez's suicide is reported early on.
  • Cool Old Guy: Walt, one of the first passengers we really get to know.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits are depicted as a train station map.
  • Dead Star Walking: Walt, played by Jonathan Banks, dies only a half-hour in.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: On a train, but the plot is more covert and the passengers are unaware of what's happening for a majority of the film.
  • Dirty Cop: It turns out there's a group of corrupt cops who are part of the conspiracy. Murphy is one of them. The police captain mentions he's been under investigation already for it.
  • Eat the Rich: Michael tells off a former Goldman Sachs employee and gives him the middle finger "on behalf of the American middle class".
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: After Michael's comment, the Goldman Sachs employee apologises to his mother on the phone for her having heard that.
  • Faux Affably Evil: In contrast with Murphy, who seems to genuinely be nice despite working for the bad guys, Joanna is polite with Michael, but it becomes obvious that she's a sadistic monster who is perfectly fine with murdering innocent people.
  • Good-Times Montage: The everyday routines of Michael and his family over a period of months takes up the first five minutes of the film, showing their idyllic (if ordinary) life that the plot of the film threatens to overturn.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We don't get to see the gory details of Oliver being run over by a train.
  • He Knows Too Much: The reason Prynne (the witness to a murder) is being targeted.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sam dies while helping Michael unhook the train.
  • I Am Spartacus: Many of the passengers claim to be Prynne at the end, with some Mood Whiplash coming when a cowering Jimmy quickly says that he for one isn't Prynne.
  • I Have This Friend: Michael's search for Prynne eventually leads to him sitting down with Tony and Jackson and using this to provide an outline of the situation, asking what they'd do partially to test their reactions and partially to see what they'd say.
  • I Have Your Wife: Joanna tries to coerce Michael into doing her bidding through getting his wife and son abducted, with the threat of them being killed if he doesn't obey. Despite the threat, he refuses to murder an innocent person, and they're rescued by the FBI.
  • Improvised Weapon: An emergency hammer and a guitar are used in a fight.
  • Jerkass: Vince is a smug, elitist jerk who insults Michael for no reason.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Captain Hawthorne initially acts like such a jerk that he's even suggested to be a Dirty Cop as a Red Herring, but as it turns out, he's on the good side despite his attitude.
  • Lovable Coward: Jimmy, who rarely if ever sticks out his neck in the movie, but is a friendly guy overall, never lies about his lack of bravery and provides some humor to tense scenes.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: Level 5. Blood is a frequent sight during acts of violence, but none of the liquid explicitly spurts or splatters. It's pretty soft as far as level 5s go, though.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sam.
  • Red Herring:
    • Jackson, one of the passengers, is played by Roland Møller, who often plays villains, so he looks like he is a member of the conspiracy. Nope, he turns out to be a perfectly nice fellow willing to give his life to protect Prynne once it turns out she is a scared teenage girl.
    • Captain David Hawthorne is described as a possible Dirty Cop and a Jerkass, so once it turns out that many of the conspirators are dirty cops, he seems like a likely villain, but he turns out to be clean and a Hero Antagonist at worst.
    • Vince looks to be Prynne, but it turns out he is not and had in fact switched seats with the actual Prynne.
    • Gwen is seen being given something by her boyfriend that she's reluctant to take onboard, and generally seems a little nervous afterwards. it is just some fake ID's he wanted brought out to college and was too cowardly to take himself.
  • Red Shirt: The FBI agent guarding Prynne.
  • Retired Badass: Michael used to be a detective with the NYPD, and uses his old skills well in the film. It turns out he was chosen for them specifically. Later he comes out of retirement and tracks down Joanna, arresting her on another train.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Michael's friend Walt is murdered by a member of the conspiracy in front of Michael as a warning.
  • Scary Black Man: Oliver at first seems like an aversion, being polite and sympathetic to Michael’s plight, but it turns out he is working for the conspiracy and killed the FBI agent guarding Prynne and is perfectly willing to kill Michael.
  • Sherlock Scan: Michael identifies Oliver as a fake because he has a left-handed guitar but is clearly a right-handed man.
  • Spiritual Successor: The film can serve as one to Non-Stop. Both of them star Liam Neeson and are directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and are also "Die Hard" on an X movies. The only difference is that Non-Stop takes place on a plane while The Commuter takes place on a train.
  • Taking a Third Option: A hypothetical example. After Michael's I Have This Friend speech, Jackson says that if he were the guy, he'd take the money and try to find Prynne but warn Prynne to get off at the next stop and pretend he'd come up empty.
  • Thriller on the Express: The bulk of the movie happens inside a moving train.
  • Vertigo Effect: When Michael opens the letter and finds his wife's ring, letting him know that his family is in danger.


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