RnA 1 – The Commuter

This post focuses on The Commuter movie, it’s review and the analysis of its storytelling, with focus on learning something from it.

Non-spoiler review

The movie is a fast-paced mystery thriller. Despite having Liam Neeson in the main role, the movie isn’t focused on action, which is to its honor. The cinematography is standard with a few amazing shots. It contains quite a lot of hand-held camera, which is something not everybody likes. The soundtrack is excellent, the cast fits the movie and the acting is believable. Liam Neeson even has a character arc and the pacing is pleasantly fast, despite the movie’s uneven scope.
To the negatives, the scope is uneven, the backstory is a bit overblown and the movie doesn’t have much on the emotional side.

I give it 8.32 / 10, I truly enjoyd this movie.

— Spoiler alert —

This is the main point of the blog and the reason I’m doing it in the first place. So how does the movie tell the story? In three distinct arcs, the setup, finding Nemo the witness and the but-why? action finale.

The setup starts with an original sequence, which establishes the main character’s (MC’s) family and routine. The originality lies in displays of the same events from different days of the year (yes, getting an original story-telling technique in a movie is something so rare I need to point it out three times). I liked this part, but some people found it confusing. It’s not obvious what’s the author going for and if the viewer misses it, he gets lost worse than Alice in Wonderland. I can see why this technique isn’t widely used since it’s much more fun to watch Alice suffer than to take her place. It delivers the point though – MC has a nice life but doesn’t have much money. To help him with that, he gets fired.
This is the first point I didn’t like because it feels like a forceful move to draw sympathy. On top of it, it looks super-coincidental and was disturbing through the movie, as the super-convenience of it didn’t fit the rest of the story. Honestly, the movie could have used the kid-going-to-university setup and make him unable to pay the tuition, because he got his loan denied (or lose a big client or any other reason to go grab a beer and meet his cop friend). The beer in the cop bar scene is excellent, some of the best-delivered exposition I’ve seen in a while. Afterward, the MC finally goes to the train and the main plot can start.
The middle sequence is downright excellent, there isn’t much to point out there because the pace is high, there is little unneeded information and it ties together extremely. There are a couple of points here which I found strange – one was the fact that he got his phone stolen. Why? He borrowed a phone anyway and made phone calls, I feel like it was done as a plot-hole catcher, but I can’t see which ones was it supposed to remove. The second thing was the bad guys killing his friend on a crossroad so the MC could watch. That was weird a strange move because it felt very coincidental… which was a bit compensated as its point was to show the bad guys are bad and powerful. Still, this sequence took most of the movie and was almost flawless, which is why I liked the movie and think it was good.
The final act, on the other hand, was a pile of horseshit. The movie suddenly changed the scope and went full action-movie. The bad guys suddenly could break the breaks of the train without showing how they did it or even a hint of how it was possible in the first place. It literally breaks the movie, because up to this point, it was a personal story in a very closed setting and now, for the finale, the setting suddenly widens for no reason other than making a train-goes-boom scene. I guess the director had unused cash in the special effects budget, so he made the scene just for that. The second bullshit moment is the MC’s friend cop turned villain literally shooting the passengers while being watched by the police snipers (it’s well established that they see him through infra-vision and that he’s marked, but the movie acts like nobody saw it from the outside).
Finally, the movie runs into the problem it set upon the start – the MC has too many motivations, so it’s difficult to resolve all of them, which leads to one being solved by one sentence (“chill, we’ve already saved your family”) and the second one is ignored (he is still broke by the end of the movie as I doubt his return to the police force pays better than the job from which he was fired).

So, lessons learned?
1) Remember your scope – sudden moves with it can really throw off readers/viewers
2) The more motivations the hero gets, the harder it is to have a good ending

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