First he takes on the kidnappers, then the Nazis, and now THE WOLVES!
After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.
Even though January to February is basically the toilet bowl of movies, there is always one guy who prevails as the winner. And no, there is not that much ass-kicking as the trailer/poster may have you think.
The plot here isn’t anything all that new that we haven’t already seen done before but co-writer/director Joe Carnahan brings something different to it. Carnahan does a great job here with this slick, dark, and stylized flick capturing a great look and feel right off the bat. All of these shots from the ice and snow in British Columbia look beautiful but it’s still not something you can gaze at as if it was a Terrence Malick considering the tone is still very dark itself. Let me also not forget to mention that this film also has one of the best plane crashes that I have seen as of late.
There is a lot in this film that will keep you riveted because these guys are basically trapped in the middle of somewhere, where all of these wolves are ready to feast at any second which is what gives it this paranoid and tense feel the whole film. There is always this big sense of dread in the air and you know that something just is not going to go right with this situation that they are put in and the film will catch you at a couple of parts and keep you completley riveted.
The film also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action junkies that will probably go out and see it considering that there is plenty of awesome action/thrilling sequences but don’t let it fool you, there is still a lot of character development as well that worked very well. Carnahan may pack this film to the top in tension but when it comes to the guys talking about life in general, he lets everything slow down and then he somehow becomes very subtle with the way he moves his camera around but never loses track of what these guys are saying. I can’t say that there are too many moments where we get to understand these guys from the inside and outs but for a survival action flick, I can definitely say that these characters felt like real-life people rather than just the usual side-character in an action flick that nobody cares about.
My only problem with this was that when they started getting all philosophical and started talking about God and faith, then it started to really ring false to me. I don’t know what it was but there was just something about a bunch of bearded dudes sitting around a fire, freezing their asses off talking about whether or not they believe in God or no that kind of made me scoff and realize that this film was aiming a little too high. I also thought that this was a little unneeded because the whole flick they don’t even make one mention of it at all but when they do, then the film becomes this huge spiritual experience where we have just about every guy cursing God. Hey, I don’t mind a flick when it tries to be more than a just mindless action flick, but don’t try and get too serious with me.
Another problem I had with this flick wasn’t so much of the flick itself rather it being the advertising itself. Everybody who saw the trailers for this flick knew that there would be some sort of stand-off between Neeson and the wolves, when in reality, that sort of happened and sort of didn’t. I don’t want to get into any specifics and give anything away but it was always in the back of my mind the whole time so that once I got disappointed, the disappointment was sort of in the back of my mind as well. Also, knowing that this is a Neeson action flick that is made mostly for him, we all know that he has to basically live out all of the crazy events considering that he is the main star and basically it’s just like you’re watching people die left-and-right as if it was a slasher flick but instead of a teenager killer, it was either the wolves, snow, ice, or mother nature herself.
Being that this is an action vehicle for Liam Neeson the film really relies on him for a lot here and I have to say that this is definitely one of the better performances I have seen from him as of late. Neeson plays Ottway, who is a character that’s a little bit different from his other action heroes. He’s a lot more troubled, very depressed, and scared but also still very knowledgeable and brave which is something that Neeson pulls off perfectly in this whole flick. Neeson makes everything in this flick look so easy and it’s just great to see him playing an actual person again rather than a secret CIA dude who has a certain amount of trained skills. If this film was released in October to December, it definitely would have garnered him some buzz for Best Actor but hopefully his name will still come around this time around next year. Then again, it’s very unlikely but still, I think he should deserve some love at least. There is also a lot of other performances here given by some familiar faces I was incredibly happy to see such as Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, and many others who add a lot to their characters almost just as much as Neeson does.
Consensus: Even though it tries to aim a little higher than it should, The Grey is still an impressive survival flick from the stylized and tense hand of Joe Carnahan, that gives this film characters that we care for and the jolts and scares that work almost every time. Definitely my favorite flick of the year so far and even though that’s not saying much, I still think it was a pretty big surprise.