The Grey Review
January 28, 2012 by staff
The Grey Review, The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and from director Joe Carnahan, rips through pretense and cliche to deliver a straight-up wolf-biting existential Alaskan thriller. Ottway (Neeson) is a wolf-killer for an Alaskan oilrig stranded in the tundra after his plane crashes, leaving him the unofficial leader of a motley crew of roughed-up survivors. It takes only a few hours until the group realizes they are in the territorial radius of a tenacious wolf pack, and wolves don’t like company.
What seems on paper like could be a ridiculous story is unexpectedly grounded and raw, due to well-rounded characters with spot-on performances by Frank Grillo and Dermot Muroney, coupled by the technical sensibilities of Carnahan. The grainy, 16mm film style and subjective soundscape legitimatize the characters’ struggle in a way only cinema can, ultimately elevating their tale to a philosophical level.
The Grey fools one into thinking it is trite, but quite the opposite. It quickly delves into the existential – in this way, quite similar to John Boorman’s Deliverance. Man, beast, nature, masculinity, and modern capitalism are all ripe in the tension of The Grey, in the subtext of the most-freaking-amazing stare-down between a pack of humans and the glowing eyes of a pack of wolves, in the most viscerally effecting plane crash I have ever seen on film, and in the final gut-wrenching stand-off between human and wolf that kept me totally on edge.
The Grey exists somewhere in this psychological ether, but at heart, it is still a great adventure thriller. Audience members may be put-off by its philosophical meanderings, but it will still pack enough suspense and punch to keep you engaged.
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