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'The Grey' review - Nature Vs Neeson

The Grey is not the type of movie that will win many awards, but it ought to be. It is quite rare that a movie fills me with such dread without resorting to stupid stunts, boogie monsters or serial killers. The danger in The Grey is terrifying because it’s so real. More importantly though, it stars Liam Neeson, who is so well cast that he’s almost playing himself. 

No, Neeson isn’t actually a wolf marksman that works for an oil refinery in northern Canada, but as a person, he’s been through the loss that his character, Ottway, has seen. When the film opens, Ottway is ready to kill himself and nearly does. He is depressed and alone, with the most important person in his life gone for unknown reasons. He, and group of other workers at the refinery, take a plane, but it crashes, stranding him and seven other survivors in the middle of the cold Canadian wilderness. To make things worse, it appears that they crashed near a wolf den, as a pack of wolves begins picking off the survivors, one by one. To survive, they have to head out toward the trees, which honestly don’t look much safer than the plain remains where they landed. Luckily for the, Ottway (Liam Neeson) is there. He hunts wolves for a living, a valuable skillset, but even he is offguard at times. It’s easier being the hunter than the hunted.

The wolves in The Grey are organized, intelligent, conniving, and seem to seek revenge as well. I am no study of wolf behavior, but these wolves seem almost too smart. They outnumber the men by five fold. Why not take them out? Alas, perhaps that is the fault of the alpha male, which appears to personally want a taste of Ottway, who is the alpha of the men. The alpha wolf is darker and blacker than the others, and in fire light, his eyes and teeth seem a bit brighter and more deliberate than the rest. For those of you born in the 1980s, he reminds me of the vicious wolf Gmork in The Neverending Story. Director Joe Carnahan’s use of robotics and puppetry over extensive computer generated imagery makes the wolf ever more similar to the beast Atreyu fights. 

Carnahan’s choice to only use CGI in limited bits is smart. He hasn’t shied away from computer imagery in previous films like The A-Team, but this film appears to be more of a pet project than a studio-led effort. Aside from the wolves, however, Carnahan doesn’t need much help recreating the Canadian wilderness because he shot the movie there. In an interview, he commented that it was negative 20 degrees during much of the 40-day shoot. The film is full of harsh blizzards and dangerous canyons. 

“I remember thinking, ‘we’re never going to finish this film. It’s impossible.’ Cameras were malfunctioning and equipment wasn’t working, and I thought, ‘this is ludicrous,’” Neeson told Screen Rant.

There is plenty of action, but the best part The Grey is the downtime. Those moments when all the surviving men are sitting by the fire or huddled up together. The supporting cast is mostly unknowns, but strong with Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, and Dermot Mulroney. You learn what each man is made of and what keeps him going. Short flashbacks scenes help us see who When a survivor falls victim to the wolves or the weather, it is geniunely painful. In the game of survival, every man truly counts—in more ways than one. We all learn what each man has in him when his life is on the line. 

Though it is based on a short story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, in a way, parts of this film reminded me of Lost meets The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Specifically the plane crash in Lost and the raptor grass chase scenes in The Lost World. Fortunately, it’s a far better film than either of them. Replace the unrealistic shennanigans that go on in those two films and replace them with the show Survivorman. Now you’re onto something. Just add wolves. 

Coming out of The Grey, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The images haunt me and I already want to see it again. This is a superb film in every way. Since Batman Begins and Taken, Neeson has turned into a bit of an action hero, but his recent film, Unknown, seemed more like a Taken rehashing than anything else. The Grey proves that Neeson’s run as an action star may not be ending anytime soon. At 59, he has passed his prime, but he remains a convincing badass not because of his size, but because of his acting. This film would not have worked without him. With him, it’s amazing.

The only big flaw of the film might be its trailer and some of the promotional materials, which seem to imply a battle that the movie has no intentions of delivering upon. Don’t watch the trailer. Just see the movie. 

Rating:  (Awesome)

Reader Comments (1)

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July 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterxnxx

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