Liam Neeson’s ‘Non-Stop’ demonstrates the Rise of the Ageing Action Hero

Tomorrow sees Liam Neeson’s return as yet another antique action hero in Non-Stop [1], the story of an air marshall whose passenger flight is held hostage to the tune of $150m. Since 2008 hit Taken reminded audiences that the older gent can still kick ass and hold his own at the box office, Neeson, 61, has starred in a spate of action flicks including The A-Team, Unknown and Taken 2, and is showing no signs of slowing, with Taken 3 already announced [2] and lead roles in upcoming action thrillers A Walk Among The Tombstones (fall 2014) and Run All Night (2015). Whilst Neeson initially dismissed the possibility of reprising his character, Bryan Mills, in a third Taken movie, joking, “that’s just bad parenting,” he was reportedly enticed back to the role with a handsome $20 million cheque [3]. Nice work if you can get it, but the real question is: why can he get it? Why is Hollywood paying out sums of that scale for action stars in their twilight years? One thing is clear, Neeson is far from the only oldie picking up the gun; there are plenty of other stars clamouring to put the silver back in silverscreen…

Arnold Schwarzenegger, or affectionately, “Arnie”, 66, exploded back in to cinemas after his political hiatus in action ensemble blow-ups, The Expendables and The Expendables 2. He subsequently manned the minigun in The Last Stand and then again reunited with Sylvester Stallone, 67, for more high-octane action in last year’s Escape Plan. Not to be left out, The Expendables 3 will see Harrison Ford, 71, joining the current posse alongside Mel Gibson, 58, who, despite leading the excellent and criminally underrated prison thiller, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a few years ago, isn’t exactly bankable these days. (In fact, given his chequered and controversial past, for many it’s a mystery his career has even survived this long. I, for one, thought The Beaver was his death knell.)

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Red Phone! Times are changing.

I noticed during my recent viewing of Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days that he has two phones in his house, one of which is red. Everybody nowadays surely knows of the red phone that supposedly sits in the President’s office, and perhaps of red phones used elsewhere for similar reasons, but do you really know why? I’d heard suggestions that the red phone is used to notify the president of an impending Nuclear attack and up until recently I believed that to be true, but the actual reason is subtly but drastically different. It’s used to communicate between superpowers immediately in the event of an “accidental, unauthorized or unexplained incident involving a nuclear weapon that could increase the risk of nuclear war.”

Furthermore, the phone, presumably coloured red for the blindingly obvious reason that red = danger pretty much 100% of the time (girls, we see through that lipstick ploy), was introduced “after the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis made it clear that reliable, direct communications between the two nuclear powers was a necessity.” (The two nuclear powers in this case being the USA and the Soviet Union).

A fascinating little factual tidbit I’m sure you’ll agree, and one which neatly brings me full circle back to my first observation – Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days has two phones in his house, one of which is red.

But didn’t we just establish that the Red Phone wasn’t in use until post Cuban Missile Crisis?? And yet Thirteen Days is a film directly portraying that difficult time. Something isn’t quite right somewhere it seems.

I checked the ‘goofs’ on IMDB and I see no indication that Costner’s Red Phone is an error – is there anybody out there that has a reasonable explanation for the existence of the red phone in Thirteen Days during a period of time before it was even implemented?

On the topic of JFK (which we are), I watched Bubba Ho-tep yesterday in Blu-ray. Highly entertaining movie – check for the review in the coming days.