Last fortnight’s edition of the series has been very well received and has already become the second most viewed after only two weeks. Continuing the theme of screen icons, I’ve decided to look at the best roles of a man who has only recently become one of the most sought after actors in the world. Who? Liam Neeson of course!
As always, spoilers will feature this fortnight, so please look away now if you don’t want to ruin the films!
5. Daniel: Love Actually: Dir: Richard Curtis
The Film: Love Actually is a marmite film, you either love it or you despise it. Directed by rom-com connoisseur Richard Curtis, it was released in 2003 to impressive box-office takings despite its mediocre reviews. With a budget of $45m, Love Actually managed to bring in a whopping $247m worldwide to become of the most financially successful British romantic comedies ever.
With a whole host of British talent including the likes of Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson, the story centres on a group of people living very different lives in the run-up to Christmas. Watch out for an overzealous jeweller played by Rowan Atkinson which will have you in stitches.
The film itself is very basic, with no bangs and no shocks but what it does have is a lot of Christmas cheer, a good helping of teary eyes and of course a nice dollop of cheese to warm the cockles. So, like marmite, give it a go, you never know what could happen…
The Role: It would be particularly easy to include five films that starred Liam Neeson as an ‘action hero’, someone who isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty to look good up on the silver screen, a modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger if you will. However, not including his role as Daniel here would be downright criminal as it shows his softer side brilliantly. The Irish actor is definitely good at beating people up as we will see later on, but there are scenes in Love Actually which show just how versatile he truly is.
Whilst the film itself may divide audiences across the world, the performances from everyone involved, especially Neeson, certainly don’t and that is why a 5th placing here is thoroughly well-deserved.
4. John Ottway: The Grey, Dir: Joe Carnahan
The Film: The Grey remains one of my favourite films from 2011. Fitting into the thriller genre, the movie follows a group of men stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a serious plane crash. Much to their dismay, they are hunted by a pack of hungry grey wolves, one of the most feared predators on the planet. The only way for them to survive is to keep moving, but it’s easier said than done in a place so desolate.
Directed by Joe Carnahan, The Grey was well received by critics but suffered at the box office due to stiff competition on its December 11th release date. On a budget of $25m, it grossed just over $77m, a success, but not as pleasing as it could’ve been given the right timing and the right marketing campaign. Nevertheless, the film is a crowd-pleaser, with a brilliant score, terrific acting and some truly terrifying scares. For an in depth review of The Grey, Click Here.
The Role: Neeson really put everything he had into the performance here, and whilst it lacks the character development of some of his other characters, that is down to the script writers and not Liam’s excellent work. The character of John Ottway is a broken man who has tried numerous times to end his own life – to no avail.
After the plane crash which killed over half of the passengers on-board, he and the survivors head out into the wilderness in search of aid with Neeson’s character leading the pack. His strong, confident performance here really paid off and you felt every strain and heartbreak he suffered along the way as the reality of death slowly seeped back into his mind. The role was physically demanding with cold, wet shoots that were often hampered by the weather.
His role here may not be as deep as some others, but the fact Liam managed to pull off such a fantastic and credible performance despite poor filming conditions makes it all the more remarkable.
3. Aslan: The Chronicles of Narnia: TLWW, Dir: Andrew Adamson
The Film: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is in my humble opinion, one of the best family fantasy films ever made, and it is hugely underrated. Whilst it proved a powerhouse at the global box-office, taking just shy of $750m, it was less enthusiastically received my some critics who argued that it was a shallow mess that robbed everything that was great about C.S Lewis’ dramatic novel.
The film starred a huge array of acting talent, with the likes of Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Dawn French, Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent amongst others and followed the story of a gateway to a magical land filled with adventure and danger. A must for any good children’s fantasy film.
Filled with charming special effects, stunning scenery and some great performances, this film opened a gateway for adaptations of Lewis’ other novels, and whilst neither of the two successors were as warmly received as this, they both brought in big bucks at the box office.
The Role: By 2005, Neeson had already proved he was an incredibly versatile actor, with lead roles in Star Wars and an Oscar nominated performance in Schindler’s List, but the Irish born thespian had never taken on a voice only role, something which it is claimed he had always wanted to do. What better way to start than with one of the greatest characters in children’s literature; Aslan. This mighty lion had been brought to life before but never with such a gravelly, awe-inspiring vocal performance as Liam gave to him.
Aslan needed to be a powerful beast with a warm heart and Neeson brought this to him. A well-deserved bronze medal in this fortnight’s MM Top 5.
2. Oskar Schindler: Schindler’s List, Dir: Steven Spielberg
The Film: Schindler’s List is one of the most positively reviewed films of all time, and it regularly received full marks from critics and audiences from around the world who said it was a defining moment in cinema history. It also marked a huge turning point in the careers of everyone involved. Director Steven Spielberg was already making his mark as the king of blockbuster cinema, but after his two releases in 1993, one being this and the other being the year’s highest grossing film Jurassic Park, he cemented his place at the top of the pecking order and he has never looked back.
It also performed exceptionally at the box-office with its miniscule budget of $22m being turned into a handsome profit of almost $300m. The film proved very profitable for Universal Pictures and Spielberg’s own production company, Amblin Entertainment.
With stars like Liam Neeson and Sir Ben Kingsley in lead roles and a poignant score from John Williams, it had all the right ingredients for a deliciously moving portrait of the life of Oskar Schindler.
The Role: Liam Neeson had remained largely undetected at the time Steven Spielberg was fashioning his 1993 masterpiece, but after a casting call for the role of Oskar Schindler, the veteran director knew he had found the right man for the job.
Neeson played Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees during the holocaust. A harrowing film at best and one that should not be watched lightly, Liam gave a brilliant performance alongside Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. There is no doubt the film will always have been one of the most emotional ever brought to the silver screen, with or without Neeson’s involvement, but his passion for acting really comes across brilliantly on screen.
It is impossible to truly understand just how horrific these events were in the past, but even the small glimpse we see here, the terror of Schindler being discovered by the authorities, is enough to put a lump in your throat thanks to a resonant performance from Liam Neeson. It really is a wonderfully moving portrait and from director Steven Spielberg a thank you, to the man who saved so many lives.
Click to buy Schindler’s List (UK Readers Only)
1. Bryan Mills: Taken, Dir: Pierre Morel
The Film: Released in 2009, Taken was a massive hit for director Pierre Morel and 20th Century Fox who had no idea just how popular the film was going to be. After release, fans raved about the tense plot and excellent acting, and for the majority, the critics were doing the same. The numbers speak for themselves, a budget of $25m was recouped in no time and by November 9th 2013, Taken has grossed a massive $225m worldwide. There’s no wonder a good, if rather pointless sequel was released last year.
The film follows the life of ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) as he comes to terms with his retirement and relocation to be closer to his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who lives with ex-wife Lenora (Famke Janssen). Unfortunately it isn’t plain sailing for Bryan as Kim is kidnapped whilst holidaying with friends in Paris. From here-on in, the film takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride as Bryan searches Paris for his daughter before it is too late.
The Role: This is the role that made people sit up and realise that Liam Neeson was a fantastic action hero. From his tall stature, to his gruff Irish accent, he was physically and mentally intimidating and a perfect fit for a film such as this.
The movie itself suffered from a lack of plot and a very poor sense of direction, but it really didn’t matter as we saw Bryan Mills go head to head with drug smugglers, traffickers and even French politicians, beating his way through them with as much force as a bulldozer to save his little girl.
Neeson has now signed on to play Mills in a third Taken film, and whilst this was met with dismay from fans of his work, there is no denying that seeing him punch some bad guys is a massive guilty pleasure and hugely deserving of a gold medal in this fornight’s MM Top 5.
An Honourable Mention
Peyton Westlake – Darkman, Dir: Sam Raimi
Henri Ducard – Batman Begins, Dir: Christopher Nolan
Valjean – Les Miserables, Dir: Bille August
Priest Vallon – Gangs of New York, Dir: Martin Scorsese
Which do you think was best, or perhaps none of those float your boat? Vote in our fortnightly poll and share your views in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!