Friday, January 27, 2012

Top 5 Films Featuring Liam Neeson

This list is in no particular order. These are just some of my favorite films that Liam Neeson, the actor and one of the stars of the new film The Grey has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on his performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that he happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Despite being a very prestigous actor with many accolades to his name and a great body of work it wasn't until 2008's Taken was released that he started down the path of becoming a true triple A Hollywood actor. I have always like Liam Neeson, ever since I first saw him in the horribly cheesy but very ambitious (for it's time that is) 80's fantasy flick Krull. Although he has played in some fantastic films over his career, like most film stars he also played part in some not so good films. But even in those lesser works he was never the problem, he would always make the best out of a bad situation. In probably his most recognized role (unfortunately) as Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode 1, he took a horribly bland character and gave it some dignity. Even when Qui-Gon would make a stupid decision somehow Neeson made it seem like the most logical choice at the time (although that effect wore off after multiple viewings). He does that for all his roles, he never fails to give 110% and I cannot think of one time where it felt like he was phoning it in. He may have only just become the super star he should have been years ago but at least he is still hard at work giving us some great films. Here are my five picks for Liam Neeson's best films to date.



I really shouldn't need to explain myself on this one. I had a powerful reaction to the movie upon first seeing it, as many people did at the time, but for me it was one scene in particular. The scene on the train tracks at the end of the film where Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) finally realizes how much more he could have done to save countless other Jewish prisoners as he looks at all his luxuries he could have done without was one of the most powerful and gut wrenching moments in any film I have ever seen to date. I am not afraid to admit that I cried like a baby during that scene, for him, those he did save and also for those he was unable to save. But for a film filled to the brim with horrible atrocities it is saying something that a single moment with a man breaking down in tears was what moved me the most in what I consider to be Steven Spielberg's greatest work. This film is bigger than Liam Neeson but it doesn't change the fact that he, along with many others, was an integral part to its many successes.



Probably the dark horse of my picks (pun intended), director Sam Raimi's first foray into the world of studio filmmaking was what I like to call a glorious mess of a movie. What I mean by that is it may have been made with a lot of heart but it isn't exactly what I would call a quality film per say. Part Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and part super hero movie, Darkman is the type of movie that wins out through the sheer insanity being constantly thrown at us. Neeson plays the part of a man who is the victim of a lab accident which turns him into a horribly scarred super human of sorts whom sets out on a road of revenge to kill every single person responsible. I will be the first to admit that the film does not hold up too well anymore (the green screen effects are horribly dated) but Raimi's unique style and Neeson's commitment to the role is what still holds it together all these years later. Perhaps not one of the actors best films but most certainly one of his most entertaining ones.



Liam Neeson may only be in the first thirty minutes of director Ridley Scott's epic about the on going battle for the holy city of Jerusalem but he leaves an everlasting impression as Knight of the crusades and father to Bailan played by Orlando Bloom. The theatrical version of this film was a travesty with many key story and character elements cut out for no apparent reason other than to shorten the length of the very long film for its initial release. This is one of the very rare examples of a director's cut being far superior to the original version and with those additional scenes restored it becomes one of the greatest epic cinematic tales of the past decade. Filled with a fantastic cast such as David Thewlis, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson (of course) and an uncredited Edward Norton, a truly epic scope and some truly beautiful cinematography, Kingdom of Heaven deserves to be lavished with as much praise as humanly possible and stands as a true testament to Ridley Scott's directing prowess.



The film that made Liam Neeson an action star. He had certainly done his fair share of action oriented roles in the past but it wasn't until the public got to see him mercilessly hunt down and systematically wipe out all sorts of human trash as he searched for his kidnapped daughter that anyone really took notice of his ass kicking talents. I am not gonna beat around the bush here, my main thrill with Taken is watching Liam Neeson destroy anyone that gets in his way. The man has always been a rather intimidating presence standing at over 6 foot 4 inches tall but he has never been as lethal a presence as he was here. Watching him beat down, torture, kill and maim everyone ranging from his worst enemies to people he thought were his closest friends was the kind of cheap thrills I love. It may not be high art but I'll be damned if it isn't awesome.



Before he was torturing and murdering countless people in Taken, Liam Neeson was busy mounting a rebellion against the crown as a Scottish highlander in Rob Roy. Despite having many similarities with the much more popular and well received Braveheart which was released mere weeks after Rob Roy, there wasn't much love to be found for this little tale of betrayal and revenge. While Neeson is as dependable as usual in the lead role and proves yet again how commanding of a screen prescene he is, it is without a doubt the villainous Tim Roth as sir Archibald Cunningham that steals the show every chance he gets. He is one of the single most vile excuses for a human being you will ever see. He doesn't hesitate to gut punch a woman, shoot a dog and destroys lives any chance he gets and when the smug little bastard finally gets what he deserves in what culminates into one of the greatest single sword duels in recent memory, you will want to stand up and cheer. It may not have the lineage of something like Braveheart but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have your respect and attention.



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