Ralph Potts reviews this action thriller starring Liam Neeson as a businessman that gets caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Lionsgate - 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 105 minutes
Genre: Action/Thriller

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neil, Jonathan Banks
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Music by: Roque Banos
Written by: Byron Willinger, Philip De Blasi, Ryan Engle
Region Code: A

Release Date: April 17, 2018
"His Life is on the Line"
My Take:

Michael’s (Neeson) daily commute home quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger (Farmiga), Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding and is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy. One that carries life and death stakes, for himself and his fellow passengers.

I have to admit that my reaction to seeing the trailer for The Commuter was to roll my eyes and wonder aloud, really? Another Liam Neeson action thriller? My son had seen it and his reaction was tepid at best, so I went into viewing the film with admittedly low expectations. The good news is that The Commuter isn’t painfully unwatchable. The bad news is that it’s not a particularly suspenseful or thoroughly engaging film, especially for seasoned genre fans. The setup is brief but solidifies the character of Michael played by Neeson, whose plight is primarily the foundation of the driving elements behind the story.

The scenario surrounding what kicks off the plot aboard the train isn’t well conceived and is then followed by several implausible plot points that impact credibility, within the context of the storyline. Truth be told it’s not overtly silly, however I found myself thinking, that doesn’t make sense, or why not just do this or that? The concept of a relatively intelligent ex-cop accepting a proposal of wrongdoing from a strange woman aboard a commuter train, despite his personal circumstances, was a reach. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sequence of convenient events that serve to keep Michael in play are even worse. Ah, but I digress…

What I enjoyed about The Commuter was watching Liam Neeson. I liked his character, a flawed, burned out shell of a man, left with lots of regrets. I like Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, but their characters didn’t truly carry any weight, although with a better script, they should have. Jonathan Banks role was extremely limited, which is a shame. He would probably have been better served as a bad guy of some sort. My man Sam Neil might have had one or two lines which was disappointing too, but that wasn’t an issue.

The action is a mix of gunplay and hand to hand confrontations which are standard fare and what you might expect. The cinematography and production design are a notch above and add an enriching element. The Commuter[i/] doesn’t reach the bar set by the better films in its class, but it makes for a mildly entertaining action thriller that gives star Liam Neeson yet another opportunity to prove he still has the chops to keep us watching.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for some intense action/violence, and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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The Commuter comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/True HD 7.1 sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD The Commuter was derived from a 3.4K source and finished on a 4K Digital Intermediate.

I began with my review of the Blu-ray version of The Commuter before moving onto the Ultra HD version. First and foremost, this isn’t a bright or colorful film, predominantly adhering to relatively cooler, teal splashed, chromatic schemes, which doesn't make for especially eye-catching levels of color. This is intentional, in trying to keep with the stylistic aesthetic of the director’s vision. Fleshtones looked about the same, which is to say, a bit pallid, but not overtly unnatural.

Shot digitally, resolution is generally strong, although I wouldn’t say there was a noteworthy uptick in sharpness and detail compared to the Blu-ray. Upon closer inspection, I could make out finer details in facial features, clothing, and the train’s interior. On occasion, discernible improvements in depth could be seen in wide angle shots, but in most respects, I saw only incremental differences in apparent resolution when comparing select scenes from the UHD and Blu-ray.

I also found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights, both bright and dark. I found only a few occasions where the presentation made visually compelling use of interstitial black levels offset by vivid bright elements, such as during the derailment and finale, which looked great. Predominantly speaking, it emboldened streaming/natural lighting schemes, which looked fine, but not appreciably vibrant, which again, fell within the film’s thematic subject matter. There was some murkiness to shadows, but in general the low-level images appeared quite dimensional. I am sure that my quibbles with the video quality is owed to the original source and stylistic choice. The result is a solid UHD presentation that failed to leave an indelible impression on me.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix atmospherics and discrete effects. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements while complimenting the story's thematic tone. When the action kicks the level of immersion increases as the sound field comes alive. This is especially evident during the close quarters encounters aboard the train, and the fantastic derailment sequence in chapter 12, which has been added to my list of demonstration material. I enjoyed the presentation's balance of atmosphere and integration of discrete object placement. I think that it complimented the source material and made for an entertaining listening experience.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
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Audio: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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The Commuter comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound.

This film has a visual style that doesn’t always lend itself to vibrant colors and vivid high gloss video quality. There are instances where brighter elements are utilized and the boldly applied contrast allows them to pop visually. Otherwise onscreen images predominantly lean toward color schemes, and grittier textures that provide the look that the filmmakers use to drive the story’s components. This is done to good effect. Shadow delineation is good overall and revealing of visible details within dark backgrounds and low lighting. Stable contrast and deep blacks allow scenes containing mixed content to appear gradationally satisfying with crisp whites and dynamic highlights. Certain scenes appeared better resolved than others although this appears related to the photography and not the encoding. I didn’t see any distracting signs of video related artifacts and thought that in general video quality was top notch.

The is an excellent Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel soundtrack that features crystal clear dialog, powerful dynamics and a subtly aggressive and involving surround sound mix. I was impressed with the implementation of both spacial dimension, and discrete directional sounds that created an occasionally immersive listening environment. This worked hand in hand with film’s music, and thematic elements to help drive the story. Low frequency effects can be run shuttering. Be sure to give the volume knob an extra turn right near the end of chapter 11, beginning with the application of the train’s emergency brake, followed by the derailment sequence. New Demo material anyone? Wow!

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: The Commuter Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Commuter Blu-ray
  • End of the Line Featurette
  • Off the Rails Featurette
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

The Commuter is a mildly entertaining action thriller that, despite having a middling script, proves that star Liam Neeson still has the chops to be fun to be engaging to watch. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, featuring a solid Ultra HD video rendering, excellent high definition video, involving lossless surround sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and a lackluster supplemental package. The Commuter isn’t a remarkable genre entry, but it musters enough merit to warrant a rental or perhaps even a purchase, for those looking for a whiz bang home theater ride.
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems