The Grey

Harrowing.

Intense.

Riveting.

Chilling.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your first awesome movie of 2012. “The Grey”

All the plot you need to know is shown in the trailer. Liam Neeson’s character and a small band of other men are in a plane crash, stranded in the wintery wastelands of Alaska. Freezing, hungry, and beset by wolves, they need to fight to survive.

On many different levels.

What you don’t get from the trailers is just how intense a movie experience that scenario can make for when it’s well written, well acted and well directed.

Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo and Dallas Roberts are the notables amongst the survivors, and they do a convincing job of portraying men facing death. They each bring different perspectives to the table - anger, fear, determination - but each of them is fully credible and they play nicely off of each other. Fighting and bickering at times, but eventually forming a strong bond, as you might imagine that people in such a situation would.

The script gives them lots to work with. In desperate times, conversations run deep, and the script doesn’t shy away from them. Above and beyond the standard “What should we do?”, “The Grey” is unafraid to delve into “What are you fighting for?” “Why did this happen?” and “Is there a god?” As such, you get a movie that’s far more substantial than simply a survival action film.

In fact, whatever small flaws I did have with the film came via the action. They’re minor, certainly, but let’s just say there were a small number of moments within a few of the set pieces where I snapped out of my “Glued to the screen” trance and was like, “Oh, right, yeah, this is a movie” That’s not to say the action is bad, in any way. It’s simply that some of the other material is exceptional.

And that’s credit to director Joe Carnahan.

Carnahan never lets the cold be far from your mind. I was freezing as I watched this movie. He also establishes the wolves as an ever-present, lurking danger. Like the shark in Jaws, death is lurking for these men just outside of their range of vision. In the dark, or tracking them from behind… It sets a constant mood of tension. You’re never allowed to forget that these men are moments from death. It’s incredibly intense. He also weaves in just the right amount of flashbacks, dream sequences, and flourishes to convey a sense of style without being overbearing. The touches he works in work to the characters’ benefit, and certainly to the movie’s benefit.

Above all else though, this hard-hitting movie will leave you wondering – not necessarily “how far you would go” to survive, but “how hard you would fight” to survive. With the cold as their enemy, draining their strength and their will, these men fight not only the wolves, but also the allure of surrendering to death. It’s a fascinating element that I hadn’t counted on. But it really packs an impact. What would keep you going? The odds of survival seem so unlikely… why go on?

It will definitely leave you thinking about it afterwards.

“The Grey” is an excellently directed movie featuring great performances, delivering an unflinching envisionment of a frightening high concept.

A

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63 thoughts on “The Grey

  1. First best movie of 2012.

    This is lean, muscular, intense filmmaking, the sort of emotionally driven parcel of machismo that you’d expect to find in a Hemingway novel more than in a film released in January. Joe Carnahan should be proud; he’s managed to disprove the beginning-of-the-year curse that hangs over every film that opens in the first month of the new year.

    If anything could be criticized about The Grey, it’s its advertising, which portrays it as “Liam Neeson fights wolves”. The Grey is assuredly not that sort of movie. And yet it’s done really good business and seems poised to be something of a hit, which is nothing but encouraging.

    I’m not sure if I loved the visceral side of the film– the chases, the moments of man fighting the literal wilderness– more than the emotional side, or vice versa, but I know that the two combined are what make the movie great. There’s meaning here, not just fist fights with CGI wolves. Ottway’s a haunted, broken-down wreck of a man, bereft spiritually and with no reason to live; it’s interesting that a plane crash finally gives him something to live for, in the form of six men who need him to survive. The way that the film plays with and explores purpose and faith is unequivocally moving.

    And Neeson’s performance is staggering. I think there’s a ton of subtext to be read in his relationship with that character; there’s a lot in Ottway’s narrative that rings of Neeson’s own loss in 2009, when Natasha Richardson died.

    Powerful, superbly made film.

    • I can’t even comment on you comments man, they’re too well written. :D You keep hanging out here and my readers are going to realize I can’t write . Lol

      I agree. Great flick. I read your review as well, at the other site you contribute to, I just didn’t comment.

      I’m curious if it will hold on all year long to make it into my top ten list. It’s certainly high quality enough to stand a good chance, but there’s a lot of big blockbusters which might represent, and Skyfall will probably wind up in there even if it sucks. Knowing me. LOL. :D

  2. Ok, I wasn’t too convinced, but slowly one by one … the film’s getting some really good reviews. I think I need to make an effort to see this.

  3. Awesome review.

    I agree on most of your points. Probably the only thing I disagree with is that the movie feels cold. I remember watching “Alive” in a smaller theatre, with worse sound and no digital HD picture, and that felt cold. Constantly. For 90 minutes.

    I went to see “The Grey” in the middle of a snowstorm that dropped a foot of snow, and even with all the advantages of modern tech, this felt like a winter *most* of the time. It had cold moments, don’t get me wrong (mentioning specific ones would be too spoilery). Largely though, the weather seemed mild, especially once they reached the river. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. Those warm feeling scenes provided some of the most breathtaking views of the wilderness of British Columbia/Alaska I’ve ever seen on film.

    The wolves do things that are utterly unbelievable, but I really don’t care. I’ve forgiven much more from far lesser movies.

      • I dunno man. LOL. I was freezing my ass off watching this thing.

        But I suppose it might be different to Canadians? You watch something like this and you’re just like.. Pffft! It’s not even snowing, what is he bitching about? Or, Good grief, he can still WALK through that snow it cant be THAT cold! LOL

  4. Man vs nature vs wolf. This is the wild story with some cold fear. I personally like wolves. This is the fight between Man (Liam) and the beasts. There is great movie photography. Liam Neeson does a great acting job in the movie, and this role suit very nice to him.

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