This is one of the innumerable “Liam Neeson hurts people” movies, only this one concedes his age and has him as just an average commuter, who happened to be a police officer in a former life. So Neeson is more human than he normally is in these movies, losing fights regularly. That’s one of the few good things about this otherwise hilariously complicated and dumb train thriller.
Massive SPOILERS if you care
The movie gets off to a pretty good start – for these types of films – with an artful collage of scenes in the main character’s life as he commutes to work every work day for years. It’s so well done that it might convince you that you are watching a better type of movie.
But from the moment the plot is set in motion, things start to go off the rails. (Sorry.) When Vera Farmiga’s character introduces herself as a student of human behaviour but then says she’s a conversationalist, you know things aren’t going to end well. She gives Neeson’s character a ridiculous assignment; he is supposed to find a person with a bag getting off at a particular station, and they’ll pay him a hundred thousand dollars.
The reasons for this assignment get more and more ridiculous the plot is revealed to us. Nothing about the interactions Neeson has on the train – with his antagonists or the red herrings – really feels authentic. But when we realize the reason for this whole debacle, it’s absolutely nonsensical. For some reason, the FBI, who cannot enter New York City apparently, need to wait for the witness at a station “at the end of the line.” (It’s not of course; in real life it’s not the last stop.) Once the train derails in some country somewhere, the NYPD show up to manage the hostage situation, even though this is nowhere near New York City. I mean, what the fuck is happening?
The very convoluted plot is resolved in a matter of seconds as implausibly as it should be, and Neeson’s character goes from villain to hero.
The denouement is also a fucking joke, supposedly wrapping up the backstory of Neeson’s character in addition to closing a lose end. As Jenn said, “Of course he can pay off his two mortgages on a cop’s salary.”