Liam Neeson is the New Action Hero
I don’t remember the exact moment when I was first introduced to Liam Neeson. I’m sure if I go back and rewatch some of the movies I was exposed to during childhood I’d be able to find him somewhere (for years, Christopher Lloyd/Doc Brown was known as the angel from Angels in the Outfield). I remember seeing Neeson in Schindler’s List some years back, as well as Love Actually But it wasn’t until I saw the film Taken that Liam Neeson properly registered on my radar.
Over the last few years, Neeson has been taking on more and more roles, drawing more and more positive attention. And if the roles he’s tackled are any indication of the kind of man he is, Neeson is not only wise but unstoppable. He’s played the majestic Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, the mentor of Ben Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, the immortal Zeus in Clash of the Titans, and Ra’s Al Ghul, one of Batman’s greatest foes in Batman Begins. He has become not only a fan favourite, but seems to be a new type of action hero, cast in action-hero type roles despite his age (almost similar to the way Bruce Willis has managed to keep his career afloat with his action hero roles).
I remember the first time I saw Taken. It was a Sunday morning, and a friend and I had some time to kill. After the movie was finished, I started the whole thing over again. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a film like it. I’ve seen plenty of abduction films and plenty of older action heroes. But there was something about the way Neeson played the hero that was fascinating. Most actors try to play the ‘everyman’ or reluctant hero, and are clearly anything but. I think this might be Neeson’s biggest credit. The man really does come off as the reluctant hero, the guy who would much rather just play catch with his kids than go off to thwart some terrorist plot. Neeson seems able to incorporate into his characters his own private, humble nature and sheer force of determination. He’s the man who has to go on, not because he wants to, but because he has no other choice.
Neeson himself knows a thing or two about having to carry on despite tragedy. On March 16th, 2009, Neeson and his wife Natasha Richardson were skiing in Quebec when Richardson fell and hit her head during a beginner’s lesson. Even though she tried to assure everyone she was fine, it became evident within a few hours that she wasn’t, and was taken to hospital. She died on March 18th. While I don’t remember hearing much about the accident or Neeson’s reaction, I do remember feeling sorry for him. His career was suddenly beginning to soar, his popularity increasing, and here he was faced with having to bury his wife.
Neeson is a man that reminds me of Harrison Ford in a lot of ways. He seems to be a very private person who comes to work, does his job, then goes home and spends time with family and friends. Maybe it’s just my naïveté, but he strikes me as a humble and genuine person who is doing what he loves. I wonder how many other men who are turning 62 this year can share in that sentiment. And when the day comes when Neeson is no longer playing the action hero, I think he’ll still be someone to count on and worth watching for years to come.