Released: 18th January 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 20th January 2018
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi & Ryan Engle
Produced by: Ombra Films, StudioCanal & The Picture Company
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson & Jonathan Banks
When Michael MacCauley (Played by Liam Neeson) get’s on his train every day he has a set routine, one so ingrained in his very being that he doesn’t even think about it anymore. He get’s on the train, reads his book, talks to a friend on the train before getting home to his wife and son. One day a woman named Joanna (Played by Vera Farmiga) sits down and gives him a hypothetical. She tells him that there is someone on the train who does not belong and that, if Michael finds them, he would get 100K. This, of course, doesn’t remain hypothetical and it soon becomes apparent that Michael must find this mysterious person before they get to the end of the line or else.
So… the plot is insanely stupid. What I just described is the basic concept, the plot that goes on from there just keeps layering insane dumb moments on top of each other to the point where it’s actually kind of funny. Moments that could have some real tension are destroyed because there’s a lack of setup. There’s a moment early on in the film where a character dies and it’s meant to be the moment when the audience and the main character realise that this isn’t a game, it’s meant to be a shocking moment but the character that it happens too is barely even introduced to the audience so we have no time to connect, and the death itself is so quick and abrupt that there is no real way for it to have the impact they wanted it to have. That happens a few times, major events happen that should get your heart stuck in your throat but because they happen to people we don’t care about, and in some cases just don’t know, there’s no real weight behind it. There’s also some corny dialogue moments and one scene at the end that made me cackle (It’s kind of a major spoiler moment so I’m not going to say what it is, but if you know your movie history you will undoubtedly have the same reaction I do to this scene right at the climax of the film) but for the most part it’s a stupid action movie plot. It’s not awful, it’s just not good.
The acting is pretty much as good as you expect with this cast, there are no particular standouts but Liam Neeson is, as usual, on point and knows exactly what he’s doing. I will say that it’s kind of funny that the writers literally had to write in a way to explain his accent. There’s a line in there where they bring it up, almost as though they worry the audience didn’t know that Neeson is Irish so they had to make him state that explicitly. Also, I’m just going to say it, I’m kinda getting tired of Liam Neeson doing basically his father role from Taken. The man is insanely talented, can we get him to do something other than that? Vera Farmiga is also fine, she’s a talented enough actress that the 2 on-screen scenes she has worked well, though she’s also forced to basically play an omniscient character who has eyes everywhere which is the blandest trope and it really does weigh this film down. Every other actor is fine, they’re basically there to be warm bodies while Liam Neeson shows off his very particular set of skills.
Visually I commend this film for trying to do the entire thing while on the train. With the exception of the opening and closing scenes, every scene takes place inside of a train car and that’s interesting, but it’s also metallic grey and there’s only so many ways you can shoot that before it becomes repetitive. Very little changes throughout the film, even in the epic climax (Which is just silly) it all feels bland. The fight sequences are OK, though they all have an element that makes them kind of silly. There are some obvious CGI moments that, while understandable, probably needed another touch up so they blended in better. It’s a mixed bag of good and bad, not enough clever visual ideas to make up for the bland choices they made.
It’s a hard film to really review because it fits in that sweet spot of “Not that bad, but also not that good”. There’s definitely enjoyment to be had, even a generic action film can be fun to watch, but it’s not going to go down as one of the greats. If you’re a Liam Neeson fan then I’d say go for it, if you like action flicks then maybe wait for it to be a discount movie of the week, everyone else should probably just wait for Netflix. It’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination, but let’s be polite and say that my breath was not taken away.