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#66. The Grey - Review


Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is an existential study of masculinity and spirituality in wolf’s clothing. With a trailer that promised non-stop survival horror and action, this film has a more profound soul and purpose than what the marketing team would have you believe. Equal part Solaris (1972) and The Descent (2006), Carnahan beautifully blends his desired themes with white-knuckle tension and ultimately delivers this year’s first must see film. 

The Grey follows John Ottway (Liam Neeson), a hired gun for an Alaskan pumping station whose sole responsibility is to protect the company’s roughnecks from animal attacks, specifically wolves. He patrols the perimeter of the frozen oil field night and day, spending more time in his own head than making friends. Visions of his wife haunt him, and it is obvious he is tired, in the worst sense. Early on in the film Ottway proves his expertise with a sniper rifle, taking down an attacking wolf before its intended victim even knew it was there. The hunter has a bond with his prey, an appreciation, and each kill hurts.

The Grey posterOttway’s respect for the wild animals far exceeds that of those he is hired to protect. Describing the pumping station as a living hell, the employees are the worst kind of men, all hiding from their past in Alaska’s frozen wasteland. It is with these men Ottway boards a passenger plane heading south to the continental United States, and it will beside these men that he soon must fight for his life.

The plane crash comes quickly. So do the wolves. Ottway is the obvious alpha male among the survivors, but he knows even he is no match for the creatures that stalk them. With some convincing he leads the men towards the tree line, and then just south, each decision more of a stab in the dark than an actual plan.

The Grey’s special effects are a mix of both practical and cgi, delivering some of the most intense moments on screen in recent memory. The wolves pursue their victims with a supernatural oppression, often times creating an atmosphere more reminiscent of a monster movie than your typical predator/prey setup. Their howls serve as ominous alarms, their frightening red eyes peer menacingly through the pitch black of night. As much apparition as vicious beast, the wolves of The Grey are wonderfully realized, and truly terrifying.

Carnahan’s tale of man vs. nature is unrelenting, maintaining a brutality and unremitting pace that most directors would trip over. And yet the director is not content to make your typical survival film. This is Ottway’s journey, but Carnahan and Neeson are not so much interested in his battle to survive as much as they want to discover why he wants to. In the wilderness he must find food, weapons, and the meaning of life; be it love, camaraderie, or perhaps even god.

Neeson continues his streak of badassery, following kick ass roles in The Gangs of New York (2002), Batman Begins (2005), Taken (2008), and Carnahan’s 2010 film The A-Team. However, while The Grey insures Neeson’s bankability as an action star, it also offers the actor the opportunity to play a genuinely compelling character again. Ottway’s vulnerability is welcome after almost a decade of successfully playing one-sided heroes. It is thanks to the character’s humanity that Carnahan’s lofty existential and philosophical goals are achieved.

With an immediately captivating story, great supporting turns from Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, and the tragically underworked Dallas Roberts, The Grey is fantastic cinema. This should finally quiet Carnahan’s detractors, proving once and for all he is more than just a capable director of fun action romps (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team), but is instead a genuine filmmaker, and I for one hope the artist maintains this trajectory.

I would love to do a more in depth spoiler-filled discussion. There are so many subtle, effective touches that I would very much like to discuss (thinking about the little moments in the film, like seeing the breath on the plane). If you have seen The Grey and either agree or disagree with my opinion please leave any comments you have below. And please follow me on Twitter and bookmark the site!

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July 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterxnxx

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