“The Grey” is a solid but sappy man movie

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. 

Grade:  B




8 thoughts on ““The Grey” is a solid but sappy man movie

  1. Great review Bobby. Neeson is out-standing here and gives probably one of his best performances that we have seen from him in a very long time. The rest of the film also works because there’s not only this certain paranoia going on but even when the “action” comes, it’s tense, brutal, and surprising. Best film of the year so far even though that’s definitely not saying much.

  2. I agree with the sentiment that Neeson is a stand-out performer here. Were you aware that Bradley Cooper was originally cast in the role Neeson ended up with? It’s interesting to think about, especially when you consider the nuances Neeson accomplished, that cold look into the camera he gives that in the picture is both intense and amazing. Not a feat I’d credit Cooper with being able to achieve, but hey, this could have been his defining role – but we’ll never know… hmmm

    • I won’t tell you exactly but I will tell you that it’s not really something that was necessary, it simply adds some closure to the movie that you don’t get from the final scene before the credits. It’s literally about a 3-5 second blip.

  3. If Bradley Cooper had been in this – what a disaster it would’ve been! It’s like Neeson had “evolved” to play this role – I can’t imagine they ever wanted anyone else. I disagree about the wolves. I thought they looked very good and appeared more animatronic than CGI. Keeping them mostly in darkness helped – it’s only when I look at stills from the film that they are clearly fake.

    At any rate – I loved the movie:


    • Well it wouldn’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last, I’m sure but I believe I’ll have to agree to disagree with you on the wolves. I think this film would have gained much more love from me with better wolves. :o)

  4. My experience at my breaking point, honestly reaching out, calling for help from the divine, was anwered and my life changed over 30 years ago. Since then I have still had to call out and have always recieved what I needed at the right time in the right way like a perfect Father. So disappointed that this film was a triumph of evil again in suppressing hope and decieving people into a fatalist existence. Why does hollywood always have to push an agenda? Or is the darkness behind the scenes pulling the strings? I just wanted an adventure movie and instead got a taste of evil.

  5. I don’t agree at all. IMO I felt like it opened the movie up and made it deeper. I’ve seen several servival movies and the themes added something for me. I’ve had to wonder if I was going to die and watched how others have handled the same situation. Many pray even if they don’t believe which the movie did perfectly. It allowed different takes and created hype by doing so. I mean look were talking about it now and that’s what they wanted.

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