Liam Neeson in an action movie, who would have believed it? Just about everyone for ten years. Launched at full speed on the rails of a suburban train, The Passenger he really manages to pull out of the game?
Getting older is not always easy in Hollywood. At 65, Liam Neeson seems busier than ever. Pragmatic in the face of the studios’ wishes, the native of Northern Ireland has been reconverted for ten years in the action film of series B, by offering more refined parentheses ( Silence , The territory of the Wolves …).
Despite his age, his massive build and his acting skills have made him one of America’s best-known badass. An early retirement that the interested party seems to appreciate, to the chagrin of moviegoers who have known him through much more significant roles.
As in previous collaborations between actor and director Jaume Collet-Serra, the scriptwriting milestones of The Passenger still revolve around a conspiracy. Behind a rather sluggish message of the economic crisis, the feature film tells the story of a former police officer who became an insurance broker. Freshly made redundant, he takes the suburban train he has used for years to return home.
A mysterious woman then tells him that he can win a large sum if he identifies and eliminates someone on the train before the terminus, making him understand that he has every interest in doing so. A particularly eventful race against the clock begins, in the midst of very different profiles from each other.
If high-altitude thrillers abounded during the 90s, the train is making a comeback as evidenced by Snowpiercer or the recent Last Train to Busan . Accustomed to energetic editing, Collet-Serra manages rather well to transcribe the promiscuity and the claustrophobic aspect that the machine can assume. The Spanish have fun zooming from train to train or showing us a scene by punching a train ticket.
The same goes for the fights, which offer skilfully choreographed scenes in a small space. We therefore find the effective staging of Non-Stop (which he directed in 2014) which, without leaving its B-series plastic, properly serves the story. But unlike the latter, the scenario is lost in wanting to surprise us too much.
Obviously inhabited by the desire to differentiate itself from previous films, Collet-Serra operates a turnaround every twenty minutes. A well-known way to keep the public in suspense until the final revelation, even if it means seriously damaging the credibility of the whole. But like his commuter train, he has a hard time hanging up the cars. This forced cohabitation with potential suspects suggested tense dialogue, but the supporting characters are sorely lacking in depth.
The director therefore uses heavy conspiratorial strings to keep his film on track until a final scene dripping with good feelings. We say to ourselves that the film would have finally gained by being simpler, like the tenors of the action film “at high speed” of the time ( Speed , Wings of Hell …). It’s all the more a shame that Liam Neeson remains convincing from start to finish.
Even if executed well, The Passenger looks far too much like a patchwork of Collet-Serra’s previous films. We thus have the impression of attending a twinned remake of Non-Stop , Night Run and Without Identity . But unlike the latter, the falsely convoluted framework gives rise to reversals of the situation which undermine the credibility of the story… And leave us at the quayside. We will therefore be satisfied with a few action scenes removed, carried by a Liam Neeson which has become a franchise on its own.