The Grey Reviews
If you look at my profile then you'll see that all of my reviews are one paragraph. I was just going to write another paragraph for this review but I think it's necessary to go into detail a bit.
The audience is divided over this one. On one side, people are calling it unrealistic. And on the other side, people are praising it for its philosophical agenda. I'm going to cover both sides of the argument.
Firstly, I'll address some of the hate. I admit that this movie is unrealistic. The way the wolves behave aren't correct. However, I think that point is invalid. Keep in mind that this is just a work of fiction. It's not a documentary from the discovery channel. As long as it's not pretending to be 100% accurate, I see no problem with it.
Also, I also feel that the argument has a bit of hypocrisy to it. Let me explain. Take the movie Jaws. In real life, sharks don't kill as many people as possible. But, when I look at reviews of Jaws, I don't see people complaining about the accuracy. Both of these movies have flaws about a type of animal yet only this movie receives hate. I don't get that. You can't call out this movie for being unrealistic and ignore it when Jaws does it. If you look at my profile then you would see that I gave Jaws a 10/10 so obviously suspension of disbelief didn't affect my review of that movie. I'm also going to ignore the errors for this review because it really didn't bother me that much.
If you want to hate this movie for having these errors then I'm fine with that as long as you say the same things about Jaws and other movies that have the same errors.
Another big point people are bringing up for why they hate the film is the ending. After Liam is the last survivor, he comes face to face with the alpha wolf and just as they're about to fight, the movie ends. Some people dislike this because they wanted to see the outcome of the fight. But what many don't know is the scene that plays after the credits. After the credits, we do get to see the outcome of the fight. We see Liam and the wolf both laying on the ground. So the movie's ending is ambiguous.
Some people still may not like that which is understandable. But again, I see some hypocrisy in that as well. Take the ending of the 2010 movie "Inception". In the end, it appears that Dom is going to be reunited with his kids but the last shot shows the spinning top and it doesn't show us whether he woke up or is still dreaming. The movie cut out but no one complained that the movie didn't show us the ending. Everyone seemed to be okay with it. My point is that you can't complain about this movie's ending and ignore it when "Inception" and other movies have ambiguous endings. I like endings with ambiguity so I enjoyed this movie's ending. If you didn't then fine. Just don't let other movies get free passes.
Now it's time for the positive parts. I strongly agree with the philosophical points. This movie is pretty philosophical. We kept on seeing glimpses of a woman and Liam in bed. The woman kept saying "Don't be afraid". He also said in the beginning that he can't be with her because she left him. So I assumed they divorced. But at the end, it shows that she was in a hospital bed and she died. I think that's a great scene because it lets us relate with him.
Now there's that poster line that read "Live and die on this day". This has a lot of meaning to it and it sums up the movie. It means that every single one of us no matter who or where we are will have only one day, that upon which we will both live and die. It's up to us what we choose to do while we live on that day, but death will find us regardless.
Liam Neeson does an excellent job of conveying so much. Everything about this moment, where he carried the emotional weight and legacy of all those men (symbolized in their wallets) and he was willing to fight vicariously for them, against this literal and metaphorical beast before him, embodies the traits of a man. The willingness to face adversity; the will to press on with life, despite its numerous vicissitudes, is life's ultimate purpose. There is no goal at the end of this. It's the struggle that imbues life with meaning and significance. I really love that scene.
Also, "Into the Fray" is a really fitting song for that scene.
I cared a lot about Liam Neeson because of that. Unfortunately, I can't say the same with all the other men. At the end, we saw their wallets and we found out that they had families and that was supposed to make us care for them. However, the scene happens in the final few minutes and the movie didn't give me enough time to make any real connections with them in those few minutes.
Also, this movie has a ton of swearing. It's rare for this to be a flaw in a movie. However, I felt like the movie was forcing a lot of the curse words in it and much of them felt very unnecessary.
In conclusion, I think all of the people giving it low scores need to stop and think about the message the movie's trying to convey. The movie did play second fiddle with the other survivors and the action sequences were a bit tiresome for me but it's still a great movie.
There is plenty of gory animal violence, but also a look into the motivation of the charactersâ(TM) survival, with bits of humor sprinkled in. We learn about their home lives and families back home and, most importantly, what keeps them from losing all hope. Liam Neeson is perfect as the gruff, complicated leader of the survivors and the voice of reason when members of the group fight and argue about what to do.
As the film progresses, we begin to see each characterâ(TM)s desperation as more and more of them fall victim to the wolves. The last scene is a touching yet desperate display of savagery and defense against a losing battle. The Grey is one of the few honest movies in a sea of half-hearted sequels and unnecessary sci-fi knock-offs (upcoming examples: Battleship, more Transformers movies, etc.). It delves deep into the human psyche and tells the tale of these seven survivors with brutal honesty. The environments are nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful, vast, and poetic. But it never strays too far from the harsh reality that even the most tranquil and peaceful of places can be home to merciless, savage creatures.
It's always amused me that Liam Neeson having actively most of his life made it clear his hatred of violence has now, in the last decade, ironically become a middle aged action icon (Taken, Unknown, A-Team, Taken 2).
With The Grey's whole poster consisting of Neeson's angry face and with the tagline "Live or die on this day" it could be fairly obvious what type of Liam Neeson film were about to watch, however, upon viewing you soon discover this is not the case.
The Neeson casting itself could have been more of a favour to A-Team Director Joe Carnahan (Narc), who originally had other A-Team star Bradley Cooper in mind for the lead. Neeson's extra years certainly work better in the role, which lends more conviction to the film's theme than I think younger but capable Cooper would have brought.
However ironically the presence of Neeson is also what has lead to the misconception of the film's genre through its poster marketing. Presented as an action film (Based on its star's current appeal) rather than the Thriller/Drama of which it truly is.
Neeson plays a Huntsman who protects oil drillers from attacks of wolves but begins the film a broken man hoping for death and attempting suicide.
The story revolves around a group of the oil drillers, who after finishing their last job are flying home only to crash down in Alaska. The survivors now lead by the huntsman (Neeson) have a new danger in the form of dangerous Grey Wolves whose territory they have accidentally invaded, who begin to pick the group off one by one.
The film follows alot of movie clichés that you would expect from Hollywood such as;
A) Plane crash predicament leading to a survival mission.
B) Each member of the group being picked off one by one in almost a slasher style layout.
C) The protagonist happens to be an experienced huntsman, and they happen to be hunted by wolves.
Where The Grey differs is the way in which the material is handled by Joe Carnahan who also co-wrote the script with Ian Mckenzie, who wrote the short story The Ghost Walker, which the film is based from. He takes the familiar scenes and alternates the way they are played out with dark undertones.
The moment our first casualty is fatally injured, screaming in pain, confused colleagues trying to help to save him, Neeson's character steps in to help... but not in the way you would expect. Instead of reassuring him and attempting to save him, he levels with him and explains that he his beyond help and will shortly die. He then tenderly explains the most peaceful way to embrace his passing, to think of his loved ones and stays with him, talking him through his body's shut down as death takes him in front of stunned colleagues.
Helping the Director concentrate on the story telling aspect is the fact the budget is a modest (For Hollywood) $25 million which helps when propelling story not spectacle which is certainly the tone set here.
The writers invested alot in character development, giving all the supporting cast personality and purpose. They all have different traits, extra details that make them valuable to watch. They bond together in one part of the film by exchanging personal stories. Neeson's contribution is a story of his late father, who despite his toughened demeanor was a fan of poetry. He recites his Father one and only poem, which despite never grasping it's meaning has never been forgotten by Neeson;
"Once more into the fray...
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live and die on this day...Live and die on this day..."
The writer's invest in the all the supporting characters for a tactical purpose which becomes more apparent as the film goes on, in order to propel its final message. The tact involved is to slowly make you like and respect the survivors, then allow them to have a horrible grim demise. Perhaps one of the most haunting moments comes after one likable character has fallen to his near death, whilst laying there drifting in and out consciousness. He sees his young daughter come to him and affectionately console him, but in horrifying reality he is actually seen being eaten alive by wolves.
This is certainly not an overly jolly film, but then again plane crash survivors being hunted by wolves in arctic conditions never was going to be.
The outcome of the films very vibe is profound in itself when at the start Neeson's character believes he has nothing to live for and wishes to die, but by the end when he actually has nothing to live for he then wishes to live and fight. That is a character transition worth the watch. This transition point is heightened by an abrupt fast cut ending, which leaves some audience members feeling ripped off, but if you got the filmmakers message then any other outcome would derive from the film's message... live and die on this day. The outcome makes no difference the message is there and Neeson's character takes it firmly by the reigns.
However if anyone is feeling curious, there is sneak clip at the end of the credits giving a teaser of the film's conclusion.