Starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, and James Badge Dale
Based on the short story Ghost Walker by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Release Date: January 27th, 2012
After crashing in the Alaskan wilderness, the survivors of the plane crash band together to not only brave the elements, but a wolf pack out to kill them. It will be harsh, cruel, and treacherous…..
Action junkies, I need to get this out of the way: yes, Liam Neeson fights wolves. But that doesn’t mean it will be the action-exploitation of his other films like Unknown or Taken. This is a more gritty and thematic film that explores the concepts of faith, man versus nature, and life and death, not “NEESON FIGHTS WOLVES!”
Now, on to the review….
The Grey is a minimalist drama that explores just how awful and harsh it can be to brave the elements with the odds against you. The first thing of note is that there is no B-plot, no side-story where the oil company sends a rescue team, or flashbacks to what Liam Neeson does in his spare time. The only plot is the survivors of the plane crash determining a) what their next step is b) how to survive and c) if they WILL survive the night. However, this does work against the film due to the fact that we know very little about the other survivors and even Neeson himself. During the film, certain relationships do come to light, but it does feel disappointing that the majority of the survivors come across as little more than “Red Shirts” a la Star Trek.
On the positive side, the film does contain a great use of atmosphere, dread, and chilling isolation. Much of the film is without a score, showcasing instead the chilling winds, snarling wolves, or just the soul-crushing silence of the wildness. When music is used, it is to highlight the tension either when the wolves attack, or when of the men is in mortal danger. In terms of direction, Joe Carnahan does an excellent job of showing how vast and dangerous the woods can be, while on the flipside he uses the same location in a beautiful scene that makes the same chilly forest into a marvelous final reward. Some may complain about Carnahan using CGI wolves (there are also animatronics and wolf carcasses in some instances), but I feel that the CGI wolves can be used well; since the men are fighting against inhuman creatures, I feel that the liberal use of CGI can make the wolves into unrelenting monsters with no remorse rather than train a live animal than audiences could relate to. The cast is good, despite the lack of character development for many of them, and Neeson makes a stellar performance as Ottway.
Final Thoughts: The Grey is a dark and violent drama situation with hard choices and punishing opposition. While I would have liked to know more about Diaz, Hendrick and Flannery, the film is still an engaging and energetic story with a chilling visual style and great moments of tension.
Rating: 4 out of 5.