THE GREY (2012) Review

Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

When the credits finally rolled on THE GREY I will admit I was feeling more than a little disappointed. I’d been prepared (thanks to the misleading trailer) to see a horror/suspense movie with Liam Neeson battling it out with a pack of killer wolves in the Alaskan wilderness. Well I was partly right, Liam Neeson was there, the wolves were there and the wilderness was there, but this was more of a suspensful drama than a horror / action film.  After mulling it over in my head for a few days though I have decided that I actually really enjoyed the movie, I was just a bit pissed off at how much the trailer mislead me.

Liam Neeson’s character Ottway is not in a good place. We are introduced to him somewhere in the middle of Alaska working as a sniper keeping wild animals away from oilfield workers, and after a bit of a lengthy monologue we see him placing the barrel of his gun in his mouth and preparing to blow his own brains out all over the snow. Obviously he doesn’t though. Instead he jumps on a plane with some of the other workers headed to Anchorage. But the plane never makes it to Anchorage. In one of the best ‘plane-ripping-itself-apart-in-in-the-air’ scenes I’ve seen on film, the plane (and most of the passengers) ends up in pieces scattered around the snow in the middle of nowhere. The remaining survivors gather and after realizing that they are deep in wolf territory they decide that they really need to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.

Now you might think that the wolves are the film’s main focal point, but they’re not. This movie is about so much more. Central to its themes is death. It’s everywhere. It’s also a look at the human’s will to survive and to overcome the odds. It’s also about finding something worth fighting for and never giving up. It is also a very depressing movie. The death scenes are not put in purely for entertainment, they are genuinely unsettling. There is almost no hope here as these men come to their individual deaths not just by the wolves but also by nature itself. Also important is the incredible change Ottway undergoes, from being completely prepared to kill himself at the beginning to fighting for his life through to the end. And speaking of the end, it’s an ending that will divide viewers. At first I thought of it as a total disappointment, but now I can see that in fact in a way it was the perfect ending and a very poignant one too.

Neeson’s acting is top notch as always, the cinematography is incredibly good, the plot and script leave a lot to be desired though. This is definitely not a very realistic movie. And the CGI wolves were a bit offputting, not all of the time but most of the time. But apart from the lame premise and the even lamer digital effects THE GREY is a really emotional and enjoyable film. If you're looking for a fast paced thriller with Liam Neeson punching wolves, or a bloody man vs wolf finale (as the trailer leads you to believe) then you're barking up the wrong tree. Instead you will find a beautifully bleak suspenseful drama which may not be written extremely well but plays out perfectly nonetheless.

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