The Grey Review
Despite its marketing campaign trying to build it up as a mano-a-lobo action film, The Grey is actually a thrilling tale of survival. Theatergoers trying to catch a peek of Liam Neeson beating down on a bunch of wolves will no doubt be disappointed, but this film offers more than some cheap action thrills. Instead it is a bleak and uncompromising tale of plane crash survivors trying to find their way home.
The film follows Ottway (Liam Neeson), a man who walked away from society after a troubling event at home and works for an oil company in the middle of nowhere, Alaska. He is on his way to Anchorage when the plane he is on goes down and strands all of the survivors in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. To make matters worse, they have been dropped near a wolf den, making its very territorial inhabitants extremely angry.
While the plot makes it seem like this is some cheesy survival film, it is anything but. Director and screenwriter Joe Carnahan (whose last film was the terrible A-Team film adaptation) brings the material to the next level by delving into subjects that are rarely dealt with in films such as this. Is god real? What is death? What does it mean to live? are just some of the few questions that are raised and expertly answered in this film. The film never lingers too long on any one question but always delivers a satisfying answer.
Carnahan also delivers a set of fully developed characters. It seems that most of the survivors of the plane crash each get their own moment to shine. While Neeson's Ottway is the man we spend most of our time with, Frank Grillo as Diaz, Dermot Mulroney as Talget and Dallas Roberts as Hendrick all get their chance in the spotlight. Grillo is especially effective as he turns his cliche brute into a three-dimensional character that can surprise you at any turn without breaking character. A speech he delivers about the scenery at one point during the film is touching and yet deeply harrowing. The true star of the film, though, is Liam Neeson. It is quite clear in his performance that he was able to relate to his character through his own wife's death. It gives the performance an at times upsetting realism that adds to the bleakness that the film is trying to present.
This couldn't have been completely accomplished through acting alone, and Carnahan and his team deliver a surprisingly strong script. Carnahan is also able to create such a strong sense of atmosphere. It will feel like the film has actually changed you for the first few hours after watching the film. That is if you can accept the ambiguous ending. Most audiences will come away disappointed with the film's abrupt ending, but despite ambiguous endings becoming an unwelcome trend to film recently, this film pulls it off well. In a case such as this, it is better to leave things to the imagination. Just like in the way Carnahan uses his antagonist wolves. They are rarely seen, but they are much scarier for it.
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