The Grey (2012)
Director: Joe Carnahan
Oil drillers in Alaska find themselves stranded in the unforgiving snowy wilderness after their plane crashes. And to make matters worse they've got a pack of peeved wolves on their ass. They don't like humans stepping on their turf. Lucky for all, Liam Neeson (a hired sniper named Ottway) is in the house and as we all know, you don't f*ck with Neeson, Neeson does the f*cking!
And the first stand-out movie of 2012 has stalked in! Yup I speak of THE GREY written and directed by smoking ace director Joe Carnahan. This was definitely his BEST movie since his NARC (in my useless opinion of course), as it felt like a back to roots effort in terms of the stripped down vibe of the piece and its grittiness. Now let me warn ya; the trailers are selling it a pinch wrong: like TAKEN with wolves (instead of child peddlers). And although there was all kinds of tension laced, horror inclined bits and wolves vs. men action, it wasn't fully THAT movie.
THE GREY snagged me in its grasp from the get-go with its downbeat opening, setting up The Neeson's “hurting” character in a poignant fashion and letting me know (the hard way) that this wouldn’t be a typical 1,2, 3 type of thriller. The film went on to put me in the shoes of a group of no frills men. Not young bucks of the months who can't grow chest hairs and are afraid to say NO when it comes to doing the dishes, MEN dammit. They wore the hard life they led on their faces, had to drop macho posturing to face their dire reality, had to look deep inside themselves and deal with what was there in an honest fashion. Men. I was surprised as to how existential and thought provoking the film was. It focused on themes I could relate to: the knowledge of one's mortality, what happens after we die, a deeper appreciation of living when it’s put at risk, the unfairness of existence and of course the Big G (od) i.e. faith versus lack of. Shit I even perceived PMS-ing Mother Nature's unpredictable acts as a metaphor for life (beautiful, merciless and filled with positive/negative surprises) and the wolves as a metaphor for death... always on your tail. Yup, there was a lot of substance here for me to chew on and although the situational driven nature of the picture didn't leave much room for character development, I was glad to see the story pause now and again to take a gander into these dudes hearts: whom they are, whom they love and what they’re made of.
Now, that’s not say that it was all about “to be or not to be” over here. The affair was filled with mucho suspenseful scenes which had me cringing in my seat like s schoolgirl that just got a taste of the paddle for spelling “hoe” wrong. Gore was in the house as well; when these wolves be snacking on human flesh, it wasn’t pretty! Big props to KNB, for not only delivering the gory grub in spades but for also conveying these wolves in a credible manner. As opposed to what peeps have been saying; the effects here were a mix of real wolves and practical effects (animatronics) ENHANCED by CGI (created by Digital Dimension). Now none of it would have meant jack if the acting wouldn't have been bang on and damn was I well served in that department. I warmed up to everybody here, even the token asshole, why? Cause they felt real. Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie and James Badge Dale all turned in intense and grounded performances. The all male cast took what was on the page and beefed it up, giving their characters depth and layers. And yup, Liam Neeson was the glue that held them all together (much like his character in the film held the gang together) with his visceral and heartfelt show. At some point, Neeson had a little chit-chat session with the man upstairs and RIGHT THERE I was reminded of how much of a commanding actor he is. I read in an interview that he related with the character of Ottway cause he was at the same place emotionally as he was and let me tell ya; it showed in his performance I teared up a couple of times cause of Neeson's display... God bless him!
Add to all that superior jazz: Joe Carnahan piping down behind the camera, tossing away his usual quick cuts and whip-outs in favor of a more classical kind of filmmaking (loved his use of flashbacks and how he stirred me emotionally via his mix of imagery/sound), a striking capture of the awe inspiring mountain/snow setting (supported by Masanobu Takayanagi’s gorgeous cinematography) and a bleak score by Marc Streitenfeld that so did the trick (I must own it) and you get a well rounded movie that back-handed hard. Any peeves? Only one. The misleading marketing. You see in the trailers, they used “action footage” from an alternate ending to the movie to sell us. So going in I expected “one sequence to go down” and I was foaming at the mouth for it. And when it did NOT happen, I was incredibly bummed (note to self: get a life). Now if the trailers wouldn’t have LIED to me, I wouldn’t have felt that way, so not cool Mr. Studio. AT ALL! With that aside; THE GREY knocked it out of the park! It’s a movie that I will remember, that I want to see again and own on Blu-ray. Howl at this moon!
Bloody bites, mangled corpses and post wolf attack messes.
T & A
It’s man versus nature, man versus man, man versus himself! THE GREY was a perfect marriage of mainstream thriller, art film and character study with a potent existential streak at that! How’s that for a full cinematic chow down! The performances were tops across the board (with Neeson really bringing it), the imagery stunning, the suspense cranked to high, the gory bits ample and the morose score amplified the emotional content masterfully. Yeah the trailer lied to me, hence having me expect one key bit to surface to then get the middle finger up when I watched the film…I really hope the Studios stop that maddening trend of FALSE ADVERTISING. In my book, it should be illegal to do that. But when all was said and ripped to shreds; THE GREY was an intoxicating thriller with heart, smarts and soul. You down with that? See it!
Stay till the end credits finish rolling. There's an extra scene.
The flick was based on the short story "Ghost Walker" by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.
Michael Biehn was considered for one of the roles (am sure it was Diaz).
Neeson on the wolves: "I'm at pains to point out — real wolves, in general, will do anything to avoid mankind, but ours are movie wolves."
The snow and the blizzard in the movie were real. No CGI at all.