Skip to main content

Liam Neeson as Michael in The Commuter.Jay Maidment/Lionsgate

When The Globe and Mail asked if I would consider writing something about Liam Neeson's latest action thriller, The Commuter, I eagerly agreed. Not since The Taking of Pelham 123 has Hollywood fare given public transit such a platform.

I imagined a storyline that had Neeson's daughter, stuck on a shuttle bus – or worse, waiting for a shuttle bus – because the subway was closed for signal upgrades. Frantically calling her negligent father, frustrated and angry, on the verge of hate-tweeting, she pleads with him to just hurry up and come get her. Or maybe Neeson's daughter and wife are delayed on a crowded train trying to decipher announcements, all the while staring in horror at a bag occupying a seat, or witnessing a grown adult actually wearing his backpack rather than taking it off as a courtesy to those around him.

But no.

Everything I'm about to tell you is prohibited under TTC Bylaw No. 1. And every one of these things happens in The Commuter. Here are some points and sage advice to consider should a distressed Liam Neeson board your train one day:

  • No TTC employee will bully you and insist on looking in your bag based on the hunch of a stressed-out passenger. I promise.
  • In the unlikely event gunshots ring out on your train, please press the yellow emergency alarm. If you’re waiting for a derailment it’s too late. Seriously, press it.
  • If you somehow manage to climb under the train’s carriage from inside the car itself, then wow. Double wow if you’re 60, as Neeson’s character reminds us of on several occasions.
  • If you live through that stunt, then do not attempt to roll out from between the tracks as the train passes over you. You will not survive.
  • Congratulations, you have survived. Do not attempt, then, to jump back onto the moving train. Take a cab. Grab an Uber. Rent a bike. Thanks for riding.
  • If you pull the emergency brake (not found on new TTC subway trains), the wheels will not lock up and send sparks flying like some Grade 9 shop class gone wrong. The train will simply brake hard, so hold tight.
  • Please don’t try to decouple cars. Just go and sit down.
  • If, after all the gun play, bare-knuckle fights, sudden poker games and broken air conditioning (hot-car alert, TTC riders), a train crew member then flirts with you, inquiring about the seriousness of you and your boyfriend’s relationship, do call us so we can investigate this wildly inappropriate behaviour.
  • Finally, if you complain that “this train is freaking me out,” I will remind you in a very professional tone that more than half of all delays are, in fact, caused by commuters.

The "see something, say something" public-service campaign seen on North American transit systems to encourage the reporting of suspicious activity gets several nods in The Commuter, but no takers.

Shockingly, no one can even be bothered to record or tweet a single extraordinary event, of which there are several, on this commute from hell. Experience dictates that this journey would trend on Twitter for a good 30 minutes at least.

As a public service, allow me to report that I saw something: The Commuter. I am equally compelled, then, to say something: Get a transfer.

The Commuter opens across the country Jan. 12.

Brad Ross is the executive director of corporate communications for the Toronto Transit Commission.

Movies with female lead roles have fared well in the BAFTA nominations count, but no women are nominated in the main directing category, highlighting a wider industry issue.