The Grey Reviews
(+) Liam Neelson always teach me in survival situation
(-) If you curious about the trailer that he fight the wolf one on one, that's the ending.
Don't get me wrong, I would have been happy had this been primarily a nutty action packed survivalist thrill ride. But, since it through me for a loop and surprised me in a good way, I was able to end it as entertainment that was also stimulating.
What we have here is the story of a lonely, suicidal sharpshooter named Ottway whose works for an oil pipeline company in the far northern part of Alaska. He patrols the area and protects the roughnecks by sniping wolves who roam the area. Basically, he's a less crazy, though still troubled version of Martin Riggs, except that he's not a cop. As the season ends, Ottway and others all board a plane to return to civilization. Along the way, their plane crashes during a blizzard, and the survivors are forced to stick together if they want to live. Survival isn't such an easy thing though. They've got the harsh winter elements in general to deal with, their own egos and issues plaguing them, a lack of resources, and, to top it off, they find themselves being hunted by a pack of fierce gray wolves who don't take kindly to territorial invaders.
Ottway becomes the de facto leader due to his knowledge of wolves and rudimentary sense of wilderness survival. The rest of the survivors are made up of what are ordinarily portrayed as shallow cookie cutter characters types of mixed backgrounds, with most of them being thugs, ex cons, and drifters of varying ethnic origins. Here though, they become fleshed out (to a degree), and they are real characters who actually have many quiet and contemplative moments. All are flawed, and some of them actually grow and change.
There's action in this, yes, but a lot of it is over really quick, and it doesn't happen too often. It's mostly a variation of the essay on Man Versus Nature, and Man Versus Self, but with cursing, a fair amount of realism, and some slightly heavy, though mainly melodramatic psychodrama. This is a movie where the attacks a quick, brutal, and kinda graphic. The editing is a little too choppy, and it's hard to clearly tell what's going on at times, but the scenes are no less riveting and gripping. Also, you really feel these guys suffering. I started to feel cold myself watching this, and it was about 100 degrees outside. Nice job.
The cinematography is great, there's some wonderful location shooting which really helps the film a lot, and the acting's good too. Neeson is awesome, but he's not a clear hero. He's troubled, reluctant, and complicated. He starts the film off lonely and suicidal (and has many, many visions of his wife throughout which plague him), but the threat of death actually makes him more willing to fight tooth and nail to keep it from happening. Or maybe he just wants to die on his own terms. You want ot root for him, but he needs to really earn it first. The other guys aren't as developed, but they're still pretty interesting, and the interactions with one another, and the situations they are put in are enjoyable to watch. My favorite other than Neeson would have to be Frank Grillo as the defiant jerk Diaz.
The film, despite some surprises here and there is still rather formulaic, and the supporting roles could ahve been a lot more developed, but even then, as I mentioned before, they aren't quite as bland and generic as they might have been. There's a fair amount of suspense and tension, but I was kinda wondering more than once why I should ultimately care what happens, especially given the ending, which I won't say, but will admit that it threw me off given the build up to it.
All in all, this is a surprisingly solid adventure thriller that was far better than I figured it might have been. It's flawd yeah, but Carnahan shows that he's not completely an edgier less monied Michael Bay, and that, like with Narc, he can make a compelling genre film with a bit of thoguht and care if he wants.
On a return flight home, a group of oil drillers find their plane having problems mid-air. It crash lands, leaving a small number of survivors stuck in the Alaskan wilderness. The conditions they face are treacherous; it's freezing and they have no food or shelter but their main concern is the pack of hungry wolves who are aware of their exposure and weaknesses and begin to pick them off one by one.
Neeson continues his emergence as an ageing action star and churns out a good performance here. He delivers his tough guy schtick with admirable ease, firing off some no-nonsense lines - â??Iâ??m going to start beating the shit out of you in the next five seconds,â?? and is a convincing and commanding presence. He also shows a bit of heart and vulnerability despite the film being quite thin on characterisation. This is most apparent in the supporting characters who basically serve as no more than fodder for the big bad wolves. They introduce enough of a background to make you almost care but this would definitely have benefited from a bit more focus on the supporting roles. Maybe even throwing in a couple of familiar faces to make it less predictable and more able throw us off the scent as to who might be the next one for wolf meat. An almost unrecognisable Dermot Mulroney makes an appearance and an impressive performance from Frank Grillo aides Neeson's plight in trying to shoulder a routine and formulaic script that's been stretched from a short story into a two hour movie.
There's not enough material and it shows. Despite this, Carnahan and Neeson still manage to keep you watching. I found myself more involved in the second half of the film where it became more methodical and even existential in it's approach but ultimately, this is an action/survival tale and despite attempts at something deeper and more meaningful, it remains what it is really; a thriller. Still, it's a good thriller that benefits from a solid lead performance.
If you don't expect too much from this, you might just find yourself having fun. It's a film that, surprisingly, manages to have both a deliberate pace and a eye for action set-pieces. It's not as purposeful as it would have you believe but it's worthy on a suspense level.
I recently saw The Grey and usually I write my reviews on the same day or relatively close to the viewing. However, this film, although excellent, is a hard one to write about. Why? Well, I ask the first question above. There is no mention on the color grey in the movie so there is not an immediate reason on why it's called that. So I have a theory that took me a while to construct in my mind. Indulge me for a moment...
The film starts out with Liam Neeson's character writing a letter. His words are softly spoken in his native Irish accent. There is a deep emotional tone to the letter that drew me right into the story. Who the letter is to exactly is unclear, but it is obviously to someone he loves dearly. (I read later that the director asked Liam Neeson to write the letter in real life - use his own words to tell how much he loved his real life wife - the late Natasha Richardson). There is a longing and sadness connected to his words but yet still no mention of the color grey. I really thought I was about to see just a wilderness survival story according to the previews but The Grey, as I found out very quickly, had a profoundly different message.
There are two things certain in this world: You are born and you die. That is it! Everything in between is really a toss-up. Life and death are the only black and white things in this world; and since I studied a lot of color theory being an interior designer for two decades, color or the lack of color takes on deep meaning to me. You are born pure and innocent. As you age, the innocence becomes muddied with life experiences. Is that a bad thing? Well, it depends on how you live your life, I suppose. Everything then fades to black when life ends. I guess you could connect evil and good to black and white but that is not what I found to be hidden in the film.
The Grey represents life when you are faced with death and surviving is all that matters. Well, I should tell you a bit more about the film. After the letter is written we find out the story takes place in Alaska with oil-drillers and their exit out. A band of rough-around-the-edges crew all board a plane but there is a crash and the survivors are faced with the task of surviving the cold, injuries and a pack of wolves that have no fear of humans.
Some of the story was predictable - the group of men that survived had to figure out who was the leader (alpha) and who should follow him (omega). Just like the pack of wolves that surround these men, in the hierarchy in any group someone steps forward to lead and some always fight or disagree because they do not want to be led. Animals and humans are very similar and The Grey equates the two species just trying to survive, mentally and physically.
Yes, the movie had some extreme violence, strong emotional moments and harrowing details that make you squirm. I had my hands over my eyes a few times, and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but when the movie comes to the conclusion I was left emotionally drained. Not so much with the blood and guts of the film but the meaning of this film that was conveyed. The Grey is NOT a typical Hollywood film and you must keep your heart open to obtain the message.
Liam Neeson was fantastic in The Grey - maybe his best acting to date. Yes, I mean it. When you watch this film, pay close attention to the opening letter and keep it in the back of your mind throughout the film. As I already mentioned, this movie was not just a plane crash/survival story but a human struggle fable. Based on the short story, "Ghost Walker" by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, who also co-wrote the screenplay with the director.
Last point: I loved the ending. With some of my research I discovered many did not, but for someone who sees a lot of films I felt this was the appropriate way to end the story. Well done.
My favorite part: Liam Neeson.
My lease favorite part: Not sure I can pinpoint anything.
Directed by Joe Carnahan, 1984 Private Defense Contractors, 2012
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, and Joe Anderson.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Length: 117 minutes
Review: 8 out of 10