Poor old Liam Neeson is the hardest done-by bloke in cinema today. Tragedy, disaster and low-life crooks keep turning up like bad pennies in his screen life, usually threatening not just him, but his beautiful wife and kid too! This time he is Michael MacCauley, a New York Irishman who has left the NYPD to spend the last ten years selling life insurance. After getting the sack out of the blue, he finds himself sitting opposite the sexy Joanna (Vera Farmiga) on his daily rail commute home. Enticing him with a much-needed stack of money, Joanna has Michael seek out and tag a stranger on the train (her encounter with him has echoes of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train). Michael doesn’t know what it’s all about, but his mysterious task soon goes pear shaped and he realises that he is searching for the eye-witness to a serious crime, and that Joanna’s fiendishly intricate, ruthless plan has no concern for collateral casualties. Nearly all of the action takes place on the train as the number of those likely to be the target is whittled down. Nothing is given away in the plot and I had no idea who the witness might be until the reveal. But before this moment, Liam has to overcome the usual hurdles, including the chestnut that has his fellow travellers think that he is the bad guy. He also has a humungous fist fight with one of Joanna’s men, and I’ll tell you somethin’ for nothin’: even at sixty Liam can take a punch in the head and return serve with an even heavier haymaker. All the while, the train is rattling along as we get to know those on board (Adam Nagaitis’s conductor provides wisecracking levity) while Liam is bashed and chased and shot at. The inevitable derailment is brilliantly executed and even if the resolution is as clear as mud it doesn’t matter – Sam Neill swans off as the avuncular detective, Liam’s missus gets her wedding ring back and Liam himself is barely scratched. I loved it.
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