The Grey at its core is a film made for and marketed toward men as an action and adventure drama that could be chalked up as a thriller. It’s clear at the start, from the cold, isolated area and scenery to the eerie howls of wolves, where the film is headed. In fact, at the beginning, there’s a scene that establishes how ultra-aggressive the animals will be. But, there’s one big problem with director Joe Carnahan’s latest feature, the wolves. Had it not been for the painfully obvious fake wolves, this otherwise tender and touching film about survival may have been just that much better.
An oil-drilling team struggles to survive after their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. The group of survivors, led by Ottway (Liam Neeson), soon realize that in addition to extreme temperatures and unpredictable weather, a pack of territorial wolves is hunting them.
As a story, The Grey is remarkable. So many little pieces have deeper meanings, making it more than the average story of survival. The screenplay is an adapted collaboration between original story author, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (“Ghost Walker”) and director Joe Carnahan with particular attention paid to subtleties and character entrances and development. Throughout the movie, the character-character and character-audience bonds are strengthened and those who survive longer develop deeper significance, making any lives lost more impactful. In addition, there are some crazy-good moments of suspense and some jolting surprises that occur as well but perhaps, as a whole, The Grey would have been more impactful with limited sight of, or absent the physical presence and visuals of wolves altogether.
Thematically, The Grey questions the desire and will to live, what happens after life and the existence of God prominently. With the exception of a few of the survivors, many of them think of life as nothing more and that there’s nothing beyond it – quite dense and sad actually. Then there are several moments when they pray to or ask for the guidance of God and the film’s message of faith and God become quite clear with the single line, “I’ll do it myself.” Furthermore, composer Marc Streitenfeld created a magnificent score that blends beautiful, tender music and imagery with suspenseful, thrilling imagery – bravo.
Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson leads the cohesive, well-balanced and acted cast that includes Dallas Roberts (as “Hendrick”), Frank Grillo (as “Diaz”), Durmot Mulroney (as “Talget”), Nonso Anozie (as “Burke”) and Joe Anderson (as “Flannery”). Major thumbs should go up to casting director John Papsidera for assembling such an awesome cast that appears entirely comfortable and that functions extremely well as an ensemble.
Despite The Grey drawing the ire of PETA (for its vilified depiction of wolves and the actors eating them), The Grey is a sappy man movie that hits home in all the right places, it’s just unfortunate that it takes a left turn with the computerized/puppet, fake wolves. The Grey runs 117 minutes and is rated R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images and for pervasive language.
Be sure to stay tuned after the credits, not that it’s a significant showing, but one of closure, should you need it.