Joe Carnahan’s latest film is a brilliant tale of survival and a focused mix of action, terror, drama and even spirituality. Like the best Man vs. Nature movies, it also explores our own human nature, with the character drama just as compelling as the wolf attacks. It can be hard to watch—brutal, unflinching, unpredictable and both emotionally gripping and draining—but that doesn’t mean you’ll even think about taking your eyes off the screen.
Shot on very cold location in Canada, Carnahan creates a visceral landscape that makes great use of the surroundings. You feel the sting of every burst of arctic wind. You cringe at every lupine snarl. And it might take a while, but your balls will probably re-descend after the nail biting plane crash. Suffice to say, THE GREY is a tangible experience in the way the best movies can be, and given the subject matter, you’re in for a ride. The wolves are portrayed like monsters out of a horror movie. Whether or not their actions or abilities are realistic is not important; in this movie they’re unstoppable killers, the ultimate foe for men already struggling to survive.
Surprisingly though, it’s a testosterone-fueled movie that’s also very in touch with its sensitive side. For a film sold on wolfpunching, THE GREY gets downright philosophical with its emotional elements. It’s a tough line to draw between manly and weepy, but given the dire situations the characters are faced with, it manages to work. The film is full of strong performances all around and the actors play off one another incredibly well, which even leads to a few laughs that offer momentary relief.
Liam Neeson is at his best here as a man ready to die now fighting to live. Carnahan has taken the badass persona he’s cultivated since TAKEN, but imbued with a strong emotional core and dramatic backstory. This is a story with clearly personal elements for the actor and he channels some of his recent inner turmoil and just runs with it. The scene where he’s broken down, screaming at God himself for strength, faith and reason is an Oscar clip with a bow on it, and had this not been released in January, I think he would definitely be up for some award consideration. The other notable performance comes from Frank Grillo, who has the best character arc in the film and manages to hold his own against Neeson.
Though it runs close to two hours, the script and pacing are both tight and unwavering, making THE GREY rewatchable with no diminishing returns. SMOKING ACES was fun and THE A-TEAM was a nice riff on the mindless blockbuster, but THE GREY is Joe Carnahan’s best movie since NARC and fulfills on the promise and the kinetic energy of his debut. People mad about the ending and the final shot completely missed the point of the movie. It might not be what you’re expecting, but I’m glad Joe Carnahan gave us something unexpected.
Deleted Scenes (22:25): The most pressing question: is the rumored extended final fight included here? No, unfortunately. There are six scenes, mostly longer takes of previous character building moments from the aftermath of the initial crash, the campfire and one where Neeson encounters a polar bear. If the full fight scene does exist, it’s a bummer we don’t get to see it here.
A DVD and Digital Copy is also included.
THE GREY is still the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2012. It’s a brutal and brilliant film that hits home on every level—action, emotion, acting, and all around badassery. While I would’ve loved to see more special features on this Blu-Ray, this is still a movie worth owning.
Extra Tidbit: All the snow and arctic conditions were no CGI effect. According to Neeson, it was -40°C on some days of filming.
Oh, and be sure to watch after the credits!