Where To Start With… Liam Neeson
Coming to DVD & Blu-Ray in the UK next week (Monday 30th June), Non-Stop is the latest in a series of films that have seen Liam Neeson transform into a proper, big-blockbuster action hero. Directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, the man behind another of Neeson’s recent outings, Unknown, Non-Stop sees the Belfast-born actor taking on the role of Bill Marks, a former police officer turned federal air marshal whose life is sliding into alcoholism following the death of his daughter.
On a routine international flight from New York to London, somebody hacks into the network used by the marshals and begins sending Marks anonymous text messages demanding a hefty ransom and threatening to kill one of the passengers every 20 minutes until it is received.
When one of the passengers turns up dead in the aeroplane’s bathroom, Marks becomes embroiled in a race against time to discover which one of the passengers is responsible. To make matters worse, the person responsible also seems intent on framing the air marshal to make it look as if he is hijacking the flight.
To celebrate the film's release we've picked out five highlight from the career of its lead actor, Liam Neeson. Enjoy...
Of all his outings on the silver screen, Schindler’s List is the film that really put Liam Neeson on the map. Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s 1982 Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler’s Ark sees Neeson taking on the role of Oskar Schindler, the real-life Czech factory owner upon whom both the film and the novel are based. The Czech-born Schindler owned enamel and munitions factories during the Second World War and despite being a member of the Nazi party he is credited with saving the lives of over 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
Spielberg’s beautifully shot film features an outstanding performance from Neeson that earned him an Oscar nomination and though the film’s subject matter is harrowing, his nuanced performance of the Nazi-turned-hero actually manages to help make the film a very uplifting one. If you’ve never seen it, we can’t recommend Schindler’s List highly enough, it really is a must-see.
Neil Jordan’s politically charged 1996 film features one of Neeson’s best performances in the role of Michael Collins, the so-called ‘Lion of Ireland’ who led the IRA against British rule in the 1920s and helped establish the Irish state. The character’s controversial life is a complex tale but Neeson handles the role brilliantly, earning him nominations for best actor at the Golden Globes and the Chicago Film Critics Award, as well as winning an award from the Evening Standard’s British Film Awards.
Bill Condon’s 2004 film finds Neeson taking on the role of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the man who broke down taboos to pioneer sexual health research in the United States during the 1940s. The publication of Kinsey’s 1948 book Sexual Behaviour in the Human male caused much controversy in the U.S. at a time when attitudes towards the discussion of sexual matters were much more prudish and still governed more by religious beliefs than anything else.
Some of the subjects interviewed in Kinsey’s extensive research exhibit a level of sexual naivety that seems shocking today, but that fact only underlines the importance of Dr. Kinsey’s research. Neeson’s portrayal helps exhibit the doctor’s patience and perseverance in the face of vehement opposition from the media and religious institutions and it’s a fitting tribute to man who changed so much in our society.
Furthering Neeson’s advancement into action hero territory (albeit in a more ‘action villain’ role), he appears as Henri Ducard or, more accurately, immortal villain Ra’s Al Ghul in Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot of DC’s caped crusader franchise. Mentoring Bruce Wayne in the ways of martial arts and initiating him into the League of Shadows, Neeson is a menacing presence on screen that complements Christian Bale’s performance in the lead role.
The film that really represented Neeson’s full transformation into a blockbusting action hero, Pierre Morel’s 2008 film sees the actor taking on the lead role of Bryan Mills, a retired C.I.A. agent that needs to utilise his ‘particular set of skills’ to track his estranged daughter when she is taken prisoner by a gang of Albanian kidnappers during a trip to Paris. Mills is a million miles from the characters Neeson played earlier in his career in films like Ethan Frome, but the transition is a successful one, proved by the film’s box office success. All together now: “I don’t know who you are…”