Movie review: The Commuter

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the first actual 2018 movie – The Commuter.

IMDb summary: A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.

Lately, we have been getting quite a few train based movies, like The Girl on The Train and Murder on the Orient Express. While those two films were adaptations of beloved books, The Commuter is an original action film that doesn’t look like it exists purely to start another franchise. Still, it’s a Liam Neeson actioner that is coming out in January, so lower your expectations.

Writing

The Commuter was written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle and for the first half of the movie, I thought that this trio was on to something. To begin with, the premise for the train-based movie was inherently intriguing. There is something fascinating about the limited space, the constant movement while being stuck in one place, and the community of people that the daily commuters make up. Also, the script did a good job of setting up the main character – the opening sequence set up his daily routine highly effectively, while the ex-cop plotline worked to explain and justify his abilities, which were displayed throughout the film. The kickstart to the character’s quest/puzzle was kinda riddled with lucky coincidences but it still worked. The film even hinted that it was going to say something profound about human behavior. And then everything went sideways.

The more the film tried to explain its plot, the more convoluted it became. The narrative turned out to be a much ‘larger’ but I really wish that the script would have stuck to the train’s space and tried to make a self-contained story within it. The intensity and the thriller-like vibes were soon lost and replaced by a straight up action film tone. The over-the-top explosions scene was unnecessary, story-wise. The fact that the movie continued after it was also confusing. Lastly, the ending was very much ‘so neat, it only turns out this way in movies’ type of an ending. Oh, and the human behavior message – I had no idea what it was.

Directing

The Commuter was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. He was responsible for 2016’s summer’s surprise hit The Shallows and has also worked with Liam Neeson before on some actioners. I thought that he did a really good job with the first part of the film (that part that had good writing). The opening sequence was an effective visual set up and the pacing and intensity were really good for the first 45 minutes. Then the movie started to drag a bit and didn’t really know which direction it was going. The CGI explosion was too long, messy, and cheaply looking (though, honestly, I’ve seen more expensive films that looked worse, *cough, cough*, Justice League). The majority of the action as well as the dialogue scenes were filmed in close-ups, which made sense for the limited space, but also made the movie feel a tiny bit claustrophobic. Lastly, the conclusion of the picture went on for too long. It should have wrapped up sooner.

Acting

The Commuter, for better or for worse, was a Liam Neeson show and he was good in it. This is the seasoned action star’s signature role, so he could probably do it in his sleep. However, he always looks like he is actually trying hard and is not just winging it.

 

On the supporting front, a whole bunch of moderately known actors appeared. Vera Farmiga (The Judge) played the mysterious and promising ‘villain’, but her story went nowhere. Patrick Wilson had the ‘bait and switch’ role and was fine in it. Jonathan Banks (Mudbound, Better Call Saul) and Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) appeared in roles that didn’t deserve them, while Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern and Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman (Breathe) played Liam Neeson’s character’s family.

In short, The Commuter was an okay film, with a promising beginning and an underwhelming ending. Not a bad one for January, though.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: The Commuter trailer

The_Commuter_film_poster

 

Advertisements

Movie review: The Shallows

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m more than a month late to review this film, but you can blame foreign release schedules for that. Without further ado, let’s talk about The Shallows – that small Blake Lively thriller .

IMDb summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

I have seen this movie being described as a sum of a few already made films. Some said it was 127 hours in water with sharks, others that it was Shark Week: the movie. Personally, The Shallows reminded me a bit of Soul Surfer (the family drama, the surfer being attacked), Jaws (similar filming techniques from the shark’s perspective so as not to show the shark) and Piranha (the horror elements in the few scenes).  The main thing that attracted me to this film was the fact that I really want to learn how to surf. I already spend a lot of time in the water since I am a competitive swimmer (or used to be one), so transitioning from swimming to surfing would not be that big of a stretch.

Writing

Anthony Jaswinski wrote The Shallows’s script and did a good job. I really liked the way he presented the main character’s backstory – the viewer found out all he/she needed to know in 3 dialogue scenes: the one with the driver, the phone conversation and during the small talk with the other surfers. I also liked her backstory by itself – she was a medicine student so her knowledge of that field helped her survive – she was resourceful and quick-witted. The writing for the big finale was a bit weak though – for such a realistic movie, I had a hard time believing that the shark would meet that kind of an end.

Directing

Jaume Collet-Serra, a mainly thriller director, did not disappoint with another project in his preferred genre. To begin with, the filming locations really helped him – the beach and the ocean were magnificent. Also, the beauty of nature was effectively contrasted with the terror of the situation that the main character was in. The photos that would pop-up on-screen were also a great tool for backstory, so as to make those 3 scenes of dialogue more visual. The effects, mainly the shark CGI or a model, also worked – he did seem real. The glowing jellyfish were also gorgeous. Those seagulls that were keeping Blake Lively company really reminded me of the seagulls that live in Aberdeen, Scotland (my second hometown) because they weren’t afraid of people and seagulls in Aberdeen can literally attack anyone that is passing them by.

The handheld camera was also good (and that’s coming from a person who hates shaky cam) – the mobile frame and the close-ups depicted the fact that our character was alone on a sea really well. This feeling of fear and loneliness together with the sense of suspense made watching the movie an engaging but not a comfortable experience. The hardest scenes to watch where the actual shark attack sequence and the ‘surgery’ scene. The Shallows also had a couple of jump scares that were effective. If we would have gotten more jump scares I would accuse the film of going the easy cliche route, however, since the picture had just the right amount of jump-scares, I was okay with them. The technique that I thought was a bit overused was the slow motion – it overdramatized an already dramatic and scary situation and pushed it towards a cliche, over-the-top cartoon level. The surfing montage at the beginning was cool but the music choice was a bit cheesy – Trouble by Neon Jungle, really? The other song that I remember from the film was Sia’s Bird Set Free. It was a good song for the credits. Sia’s music have been featured in at least 4 films this summer, she is really making her mark in Hollywood. The Shallows instrumental score was great too – it helped a lot to build an anxiety-inducing atmosphere.

Acting

Blake Lively starred as the lead, named Nancy, and did an amazing job. She basically carried this whole movie. She was believable as a sporty surfer and was amazing in all the suspenseful scenes. I especially liked that close-up reaction shot where she supposedly saw the shark attacking that drunk guy. Lively just starred in the new Woody Allen film Cafe Society. She was also really good in last year’s Age of Adaline (that picture have been doing great on streaming). Lively has definitely shed her Gossip Girl persona and is probably doing the best out of all her former castmates. A few unknown Spanish actors, as well as a few familiar faces from TV, played a couple of small supporting roles but, honestly, none of them had enough of screen time for me to talk about them.

In short, The Shallows was an unexpectedly entertaining film, one of the hidden gems of this summer. Blake Lively shined and finally proved herself to be a great actress. The writing and directing were also good for the most part.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Shallows trailer

the-shallows-poster-4.jpg