Perhaps earlier in his career Liam Neeson was not necessarily known as an action hero, but in recent years, he really has taken on that mantel with some terrific performances in the action film genre.
He returns to the role of Bryan Mills this wee as Taken 3 hits the big screen and comes seven years after we were introduced to this character with a 'particular set of skills' for the first time. This also looks set to be the last time that we will see Neeson take on this role.
To celebrate the release of Taken 3 today, we take a look at some of Neeson's back action roles in recent years.
- Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
When the cast list for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was announced, Neeson was a name that you perhaps didn't expect to see involved as the popular sci-fi franchise was set to make a big screen return.
What better way to build a name for yourself than by starring in one of the most beloved action series of all time? Neeson was cast as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, one of the new characters included to the Star Wars universe.
I am not a huge fan of the later Star Wars movies, but Neeson was one of the performances that I particularly enjoyed as he brought a bit of gravitas to the role of Qui-Gon Jinn, while he also showed that he knew how to swing a light sabre around.
His battle with the Sith towards the end of the film is one of the most memorable and iconic moments from The Phantom Menace and showed that Neeson really could be a true action hero. While the film did not go on to win over the critics, it enjoyed huge box office success over the years and has grossed in excess of $1 billion worldwide.
- Batman Begins
It was a decade ago when Batman was brought back to the big screen by director Christopher Nolan - yes, it really was back in 2005 when they movie was released. It was the first time that we saw Nolan put his unique stamp on the Batman franchise, and it kicked off a very successful trilogy of movies.
Neeson stared in this film, the first of the iconic Batman trilogy, as primary villain Ra's Al Guhl. During most of the movie, Al Guhl poses as Henri Ducard, who teaches Batman the skills he needs as a member of the League of Shadows.
This manipulation of Batman introduces Neeson's character as Batman's first true villain, ending in a climactic fight scene between mentee Batman and mentor Al Guhl. Writer David Goyer claimed that Ra's Al Guhl was one of the most complex Batman villains, and Neeson was cast as a villain rather than a mentor with the intent to shock audiences.
It is not too often that we see Neeson take on the role of the villain and it was great to see him take on a villainous and deceitful character - something that he did with great grace and charm, which makes his betrayal even more surprising to audiences. Neeson briefly returned to the role in The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012. Batman Begins was met well critically, and while it was not a big a box office success as the two movies that followed, it sowed the foundations for what would be a magnificent trilogy of films.
It was back in 2008 when we were introduced to the character of Bryan Mills for the first time, but this was really the movie that reignited Neeson's action man career. He also showed some of these young guns just how action movies are supposed to be done, as he was fifty-six when he took on this role for the first time.
Directed by Pierre Morel, Taken follows retired CIA agent Bryan Mills who is called back into action when his daughter is kidnapped in Europe. He sets off in search for her relying and using his old skills to the find and kill the men that are holding his daughter hostage.
Taken really is a terrific action movie that really sees Neeson get totally immersed in this action world - Bryan Mills remains one of the most famous roles of his long and very successful acting career. It is a fast paced and high-octane movie that shows that it is not just these young Hollywood stars that can kick some ass and take out the human trash.
This is not just your average action movie and that is thanks to Neeson's central performance. It is a compelling turn from the actor who plays a father who is trying to get his family back - he has paid a heavy personal price for his career. In lesser hands, this would not have been as powerful a feature of this character, but Neeson plays it in a way where you know he is fighting for more than just his daughter's life.
Neeson threw himself into another action role in 2011 when he took on the central role of Dr Martin Harris in Unknown. The movie saw him team up with director Jaume Collet-Serra for the first time - the pair reunited last year with Non-Stop.
The movie follows Harris who awakens from a coma, only to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, (not even his wife), believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.
Ok, the premise of Unknown may get a little out of hand but that doesn't stop Neeson from giving another excellent performance and throw a few punches while he is at it. Neeson is the actor that really does elevate this story and the audience is immediately on his side and wants to know the truth as well. We really do go on a voyage of self-discovery with Neeson as Harris.
Unknown is not what of those action movies that you take overly seriously, and yet it is one that you will have a lot of fun watching - it is worth giving it a go just for Neeson's central performance. He is joined on the cast list by Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, and Frank Langella.
- The Grey
The Grey saw Neeson take on an action role of different kind in 2012, as he lead the all-star cast of adventure/drama The Grey, which saw him reunite with writer/director Joe Carnahan for the first time since The A-Team.
After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled huntsman to survival, but a pack of merciless wolves haunts their every step. This really is a man vs. animal movie and is an exciting survival movie that boasts another terrific performance by Neeson.
The Grey was a welcome break from the tradition action movies, and yet you still knew that there was danger and potential death around every corner - it really is a very tense and exhilarating watch. As well as being an action movie, the Grey is also a great character piece about the strength and spirituality of man and it is Neeson that really does help deliver this aspect of the film with real power.
Other Neeson action roles include Rob Roy, The A-Team, Taken 2, and last year's A Walk Among The Tombstones & Non Stop.
Taken 3 is out now.
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