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.