The Commuter Ending, Explained

Starring Liam Neeson, ‘The Commuter’ is a train-bound thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat with its well-choreographed action and gripping suspense. With its undercurrent of themes surrounding class-warfare and moral conundrums of cops, the quick-paced film confuses you a little but eventually resolves almost all of its plot points. On that note, if you missed out on any of its major plot points and couldn’t wrap your head around its conclusion, here’s the ending of ‘The Commuter,’ explained.

Plot Summary

‘The Commuter’ centers on Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), a former cop working as a life insurance salesman. After getting fired from his job one day, Michael abords his usual train ride home and meets a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga). Knowing that he is an ex-cop, Joanna tricks him into accepting a bribe for locating an unknown passenger, codenamed “Prynne.” She assures him that if he does what is expected from him, she’ll reward him $75,000 once the whole job is done. Adding to this, she also tells him that he has a deadline for the given task as Prynne will be getting off the train at Cold Spring station.

Initially driven by the reward money, Michael attempts to find the target by pegging all the passengers who are getting off at Cold Spring. But soon, his morals take over, and he starts wondering if he’s doing the right thing by following Joanna’s orders without even knowing her motives. Unfortunately for him, Joanna stays one step ahead of him and threatens that if he defies her, she’ll get his wife and son killed. As a result, Michael races against time and frantically searches for Prynne to save his family.

The Ending: Who is Prynne?

During his search, Michael starts suspecting a man named Oliver, who is also supposed to get off at the Cold Spring station. His speculation is further cemented when he notices that the man carries a left-handed guitar but previously used his right hand to help him. However, to his surprise, it turns out that Oliver is not Prynne but Joanna’s hired assassin, who has been keeping a close eye on him all this while. After getting Oliver out of his way, Michael rigs the train’s air-conditioning system and makes it malfunction in such a way that only the last cart gets proper circulation. Due to this, all the remaining passengers accommodate the last cart, and it helps Michael narrow down his search.

Soon after this, Michael starts suspecting Eva, a nurse, because of her strange behavior and obsession with her phone. He points his gun at her and forces her to tell the truth. However, it turns out that his suspicion was wrong all over again. Eva was only on her phone because she was trying to fix things with her boyfriend. Ultimately, after pegging almost every passenger traveling to Cold Springs, he recalls that he missed out on one—a young girl named Sofia who had initially switched seats after getting irritated by an unpleasant passenger. When he approaches Sofia, he finds her reading “The Scarlet Letter,” which makes him realize that her codename Prynne comes from the novel’s protagonist, Hester Prynne.

In one of the opening scenes, where Michael meets his former partner Alex Murphy at a bar, a news channel on television foreshadows that a city planner jumped out of his window and died. Prynne reveals that the city planner was her friend, and he did not jump out of his window. The police had killed him, and just because she is a witness of that crime, they now want to kill her as well. She also tells Michael that the police officers killed her friend because he knew about some incriminating secrets of powerful people. She even hands him over her friend’s hard drive, which consists of these secrets. Realizing that Prynee is innocent, Michael refuses to give her up. Because of Michael’s rejection, Joanna has no other option but to let all the passengers die. So she sets the train to crash.

In the end, Michael manages to save everyone by derailing the last cart from the rest of the train. When the train halts, cops surround them, and Michael’s former partner, Alex Murphy, is sent in to negotiate. While Michael tries to tell Murphy about the conspiracy, a sniper sets his eyes on Michael using Murphy’s tracker.

On the train, while explaining things to Michale, Murphy says, “There’s no such thing as noble”—a phrase which Joanna had mentioned earlier. Through this, Michael gets a hint that his former partner is also involved in the conspiracy. The two confront each other and fight it out, and that’s when Michale cleverly steals his tracker. In the end, when the sniper outside gets his order to kill, he accidentally shoots Murphy. After heading out of the train, Sofia gives her testimony to the cops, and Michael becomes a hero in everyone’s eyes. One of his senior officers even tells him that the police force needs loyal men like him.

Who is Joanna?

In the closing moments of the film, Michael is back on the train, and he luckily runs into Joanna all over again. She pretends to have no idea about who he is. But Michael does not fall for her schemes this time and shows her his police badge. The ending suggests that Michael started working with the police again and will now arrest Joanna for what she did to him and all the other passengers on the train. Although the film never reveals who Joana is, she probably works for the powerful and helps them hide evidence of their wrongdoings. At the beginning of the film, she easily manipulates Micheal and makes him fall for her scheme. Her manipulation skills suggest that she could be a veteran or even a former cop like Michael.

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