Career Peak – The point in an actor, actress or director’s career when they have given their best performance, reaching a point they will probably never match again!
The idea is to examine a person’s film or television career and decide when their career peak was; the moment that they gave their best performance or produced their best work. This could be with their first movie; it could also be yet to come. It’s designed to spark friendly debate too so if you don’t agree (or do, which would also be good) then feel free to add your opinion.
Liam Neeson has played characters that most people would love to lay claim too. It has become a popular meme to highlight how Neeson has trained Jedi, Batman, voiced one of the most famous lions in literature and played the King of all Gods. This highlights the key fact that when examining the bulk of Neeson’s career, he is a supporting character actor and has only recently played the leading role and been known for holding the movie himself. What I thought would be a difficult decision considering an early Oscar winning movie became pretty clear when you actually examine his career;
Liam Neeson: Career Peak – Taken
This seems really harsh considering he was Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s seminal holocaust movie but even after taking the credits and an Oscar nomination (one of the only Oscars the movie didn’t win) Neeson’s career seemed to fall back into supporting roles and impact parts rather than holding a movie together himself.
Before Schindler, Neeson had only cult hit Darkman to his name as any notable role to be remembered for. His casting as Oskar Schindler was a perfect one and he played the sombre, righteous and reformed character brilliantly. It needed to be a considered unknown to ensure the focus of the tale wasn’t stolen.
After a best Oscar nomination, you’d expect that Neeson could pick and choose his leading roles and to a certain extent he seemed to do this. The roles weren’t as mainstream as you’d imagine and Neeson stayed in clear dramatic territory. Nobody really remembers Rob Roy or Michael Collins but these historic films carved a clear career path for the actor.
Even when the role seemed to be a leading one, Neeson always seemed to be supporting others. This is the perfect way to describe his part in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. As part of the early years of Anakin Skywalker, Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn is influential but never the main role. He is also one of the only aspects of the prequels that people can not really flaw.
This influential supporting role would continue with Gangs of New York, Love Actually and Kingdom of Heaven. These roles would be good but none of them would be the role the film would be remembered for. This would also mean he got to play a very cool Ra’s Al Ghul in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
Someone made the correct decision to promote Neeson’s intense, authoritative and commanding screen presence into one of the best action roles in recent cinema. Taking a different approach to the gung-ho everyman like Bruce Willis’ John McClane or Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, Taken cast Neeson as the calm, calculated and now iconic Bryan Mills.
This is the reason it is his Career Peak. Taken threw Neeson into the central role as the film’s star and also proved to Hollywood that he is a legitimate action star. It meant Neeson graduated from influential father-figure to front and centre action star and it was a move for the better.
It injected his career with a new creative direction. Neeson channelled his well-known intensity and gruff approach into killing wolves in The Grey, uncovering a shady past in Unknown and stopping a mid-flight threat in Non-Stop. Even when he took on a role which was much more dramatic than action, like A Walk Among the Tombstones, there was still an intimidating conversation on a telephone.
Taken looks like it has defined his future roles too. Neeson is now playing for comedy with his newly acquired hard-man image. Roles in Entourage, Ted 2 and A Million Ways to Die in the West show that Taken still has a legacy. He is even the now iconic gruff tones to voice The Monster in upcoming BFG rival A Monster Calls.
There could still be a legitimate return to the dramatic with Martin Scorcese’s new movie Silence coming to our screens at the end of the year and a biopic of the legendary Deep Throat in pre-production, a movie you have to imagine is more drama than explosive action.
Overall, Taken redefined, relaunched and refocused an already impressive career for Liam Neeson. In one movie he went from being the influential supporting role to the headline action star. Neeson has a career in which he was a Jedi, a Batman villain and a God but it will be the normal, everyday father looking for his daughter which will remain his Career Peak.