Review: The Grey
PLOT: A group of men working at an Alaskan oil rig find themselves fighting for survival after their return flight crashes to the ground. With no food or shelter, those who escaped the wreckage discover they are not alone. It seems a pack of hungry wolves are waiting to feed on the desperate and terrified men. Can Liam Neeson get out of this mess alive? Youll have to see it to find out.
THE GREY is an unsettling and thought provoking near masterpiece. In its simplest form you could call it a man vs. nature action adventure. However, Joe Carnahans latest feature is not quite as simple as one would expect. When a plane goes down carrying a group of men working at an Alaskan oil rig, few survive. Those who do are stalked and hunted by a bloodthirsty pack of wolves. Most features of this ilk wouldnt take the time and effort to explore the yin and yang of the victims. However, the inspired casting choices along with an intelligent script help to bring a sense of realism and truth to their plight. They are cold, they are desperate and they are defenseless with no rescue in sight. Sure it is only near the end of January, but THE GREY would have made my best list in 2011 had it been released that year.
Plot wise, there is not much to tell. Several plane crash survivors must fend off a hungry pack of wolves while searching for food and shelter from the freezing cold. The group is reluctantly led by Ottway (Liam Neeson) who knows a thing or two about the wild animals ready to pounce. He had been hired as a sniper, keeping the wolves at bay while the men work. He is part Quint from JAWS and maybe a shade of Riggs from LETHAL WEAPON. He speaks when necessary and when he does, he commands the attention of his fellow men. Yet he is a bruised and frail hero who holds on to a letter he wrote to his beloved wife. In a striking visual scene, she is taken from his dream state as the plane is going down shocking him back into reality.
Liam Neeson gives a bravura performance as Ottway. He is terrified, lost, and vulnerable bringing every single emotion effortlessly to this character. Much has been made of the trailer where it looks as though Neeson is about to box the shite out of his four-legged foes. However, if you are expecting a rough and tumble action flick with this fantastic actor playing bad ass, you will be disappointed. This is a somber tale perfectly matched to the actors Oscar caliber performance.
Neeson is surrounded by a group of excellent actors including Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Ben Hernandez Bray, Joe Anderson, James Badge Dale and Nonso Anozie. Mulroney is near unrecognizable hidden under grey hair, grey beard and a baseball cap. It also happens to be another great performance for the actor who was equally impressive in last years INHALE. As for the rest of the cast, it was Dallas Roberts who really resonated with me. As Hendricks, he created a slight sense of hope in such a grim and frightening climate. This is the kind of ensemble cast that elevates the already strong material.
One minor complaint comes from the trailer. This is not the movie I had expected to see. This is not a non-stop, kill em all action flick with blood and fur flying everywhere. Carnahan drifts into the cerebral occasionally which may turn off fans looking for a mindless adventure. Personally I appreciated the story as it delved back into the past. It is tricky to present flashbacks for certain characters, yet it worked for me nearly every single time. This brought humanity to the men, even if it occasionally felt a tad too melodramatic for a moment or two.
Writer and director Joe Carnahan has created what you could call a philosophical adventure. It is fueled equally by brawn as it is brains. When the plane begins to fall apart around our heroes, it is an unsettling moment that has forced itself into my memory. The wolf attacks are brutal and they will leave the audience literally on the edge of their seat. Thankfully Carnahan didnt just go for a cheap, bloody action flick you know the one that the trailer seems to promise. He attempts to explore the nature of the unknown, everything from having lost all hope to the promise of a spiritual life after death. This is man vs. nature done right. THE GREY is a bold and intense thriller that features another commanding performance from Liam Neeson. Hopefully Academy voters will remember this come next year.
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