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. Dead right review. Saw the movie this afternoon and I’m still freezing. Neeson nailed the lead with an all out portrayal of despair vs hope (which I suspect came from his personal loss in life). Have to rank this high on my list of favorite survival movies.

    • You know? I hadn’t even thought of that! (Neeson’s loss)

      Damnnnnnnn…. nice point. She shoots she scores! You’re right, he could have easily used that tragedy to inform this character. ;)

  2. OH man, you saved me $12. Tomorrow, I was going to watch Man on the Ledge, but then I read your review earlier today and thought maybe that’s not a good movie for me. Thank goodness you wrote a review for The Grey. I don’t know why, but this movie was never on my radar. I’m ready for an intense movie. Thanks for the heads up! I owe you one!

    • Tell you what Jen, not yet.

      Why dont you see it tomorrow, and then swing back. Make sure you approve of it first, then let us hear what you think once you’ve seen it.

      But I’m feeling pretty good about steering you from one theatre to the other. Definitely. But let us know!!

  3. I’ve been wanting to go see this movie tomorrow, but keep telling myself I have too many “responsible” things to get done. But after this review it seems the only respectable choice is to go see it. So thanks! LOL :)

    • That’s right.

      Fogs’ Movie Reviews.

      Helping people dodge responsibilities since June, 2011. LOL!!

      Listen, responsibilities aside, if you go see it, I’m betting you’d like it. Its really very intense. But be sure to swing back and let us know what you think. Especially if I’m influencing you to shirk your duties on something!! :D

  4. WOW, this was a great film wasn’t it? Wasn’t expecting something so profound from this gritty survival epic. Loved it and Liam Neeson gave one of his strongest performance in a while. I just sat there content at what I just witnessed while some people in the back booed at the resolution. Did we see the same film people? LOL. The film ended exactly as it should have for the story being told. Definitely starts the year off on good footing. Bring it on 2012! :)

  5. Nailed it! I happened to see two films this weekend. Both very different, but each were intensely moving and memorable. ‘The Flowers of War’ and ‘The Grey’. Like you, ‘Narc’ was my favorite film by Joe Carnahan prior. I daresay this one has squeezed by it. The location work was extraordinary, and the CGI was kept to a minimum (as Liam Neeson reported, the wolves were mostly animatronic). But, the story and performances made this movie remarkable. It really spoke about men in a number of ways most of us guys will recognize, or quietly keep to ourselves. It really is the “first awesome movie of 2012.” Great review for a great movie. Thanks for this.

    • No problem, thank YOU.

      This movie was remarkable in a lot of ways. Totally shocked me… I recognized like halway through how “into it” I was, it was surprising.

      As I mentioned earlier, personally I love Narc, It’s always been like a hidden gem to me, so… it’ll take a little mulling over. May happen though. For sure.

      Thanks again for posting up, dont change those spots! :D

    • Thanks Colin. Yeah. It was a surprisingly good for a January release. Although giving it some thought I’m not sure what season of the year it should have been released in… its certainly not Summer Blockbuster type material. You know?

  6. Like K26dp, I was discounting this movie a little because I was thinking it was another ‘Taken’ type situation. Different story but the same premise, desperate, attack obstacles one at a time, use knowledge to move forward, take some risks, etc. But your review has opened my eyes to the deeper possibilities. I was never against this movie but my expectations were lower than your review indicates it should be. Thanks for the insight.

    I’m glad the wolves don’t turn into human beings with their shirts off!

    Great review!

    • Yup. My expectations were low too. Thought it was going to be Liam Neeson fights wolves in the snow. Which could have been really dumb.

      Instead it’s Liam Neeson and a bunch of other dudes get crashed in the middle of a frozen hell and they desperately try to figure out wtf to do. LOL

      It wound up really good, I was surprised…

  7. Heads up to anyone planning to see this movie: be sure to stay to the end of all the credits to see the final shot!!!!

  8. I’m not usually into the badass survival films, but the psychological themes in this one sound like they elevate it quite a bit. I still don’t understand why they released it in January, though. Maybe they thought that was the time when most people would have snow outside their theaters, to be able to relate.

    • Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it. I dont think they could have done either of the two big seasons with it, and its definitely wrong for march. So that left Jan/Feb or Sept/Oct

      Jan/Feb would probably have people thinking snow, so there’s your tiebreaker.

      You know, cause just because its good doesn’t mean its going to make cash. And that’s what the studio is concerned about most with realease calendar…

  9. Really looking forward to seeing this. I was a little apprehensive when I first heard about it, as the most common remark was “watch Liam Neeson punch a wolf!”, but the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  10. Great piece! I wasn’t sure about this from the trailer as it reminded me of Alive – a film I like but I felt it was going to be too similar. But now I think I’m going to have to check it out. Thanks for this review!

  11. Wild raves for a January release, that’s pretty rare! :D I think I will wait for the rental but certainly, I will have higher expectations now.

  12. This film is why I go to movies- fantastic. Jack London meets Joseph Conrad in this story. And no this film IS NOT Alive (though there are similar elements). Nice post strong film; Neeson is tremendous.

  13. ha! I loved your opening lines. Caught my attention immediately.

    I can agree with you that the directing was well done, but man! this movie left me wanting more than what it promoted itself to be about.

    Great review Dan. Glad to see Neeson in this but I hold no hope for Battleship or Wrath of the Titans.

  14. Favourite Neeson lines from the film:

    /intense Neeson voice: “I will hit you so hard you’ll be drinking blood!!”

    “HOLD YOUR BREATH, HOLD YOUR BREATH, HOOOOLD YOUR BREATH!” as the guy being shouted at desperatly attempts to hold his breath.

    • LOL He was great here. The Sports Guy on ESPN.com had a mailbag a couple of weeks bag and one of the jokes was that Neeson’s Character here would make the greatest consultant ever.

      Hungry for lunch? “Make hot dogs. They’re your favorite food and you’ve been eating well so you can afford the nitrates.” Should I start a game of Words With Friends with my boss? “No, you will have trouble remembering to not play his game during work hours, and the benefits of the new kinship will be minimal.”

  15. I am really surprised at the acclaim this film has received, it is January for goodness sake, how the film production business gone mad?!?! Oh well, maybe this year we’ll have good films all the way around! Lol.

    An A is quite a high rating, so glad to hear the positive thoughts my friend!

    • Surprise has been the key word for me too man. This film was MUCH better than I expected.

      The thing I’ve been realizing as I address the surprise January hit comment though is that… this movie really wouldnt fit in other seasons…PERHAPS it could have been a pre-Christmas like early Holiday season release. But March or Summer? It’s nto that kind of big movie. Plus, it’s VERY bleak. YOu’ll see when you see it. But its good, you should definitely check it out…

  16. Wow! U are uber pumped about this one. I didn’t like it as much as you did. Where it lacked in overall character development (I felt like Neeson was really the only person there surrounded by pawns) it made up for with suspense and thrills. I found myself jumping a few times, and they did a great job of making u feel the Alaskan chill. The overall journey however seemed pointless. The beginning and the end were my greatest disappointments with this one. Nice review!

    • Oh… I dont know about “Uber” pumped up. LOL. (Perhaps you just have seen when I really crank up the hype and toss around the +++s yet. ;) )

      I was very impressed with it though. It worked for me on many levels, including the other characters… I didn’t feel they were just pawns at all. In fact, I thought Frank Grillo was awesome.

      I can see how the ending will have its detractors. I enjoyed it myself. I thought it was excellent. But I can see people’s points about not liking it to the extent that I dont know how staunchly I’d defend it.

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