The Grey (2012)

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.



  1. About the ending, I don’t think it could have ended any other way. When endings are left open but give you enough information to come to your own conclusion, its interesting, far more interesting than an open and closed book. In my opinion, at least. Otherwise, good review.

  2. I have to agree with you that this is the best movie so far this year. I do feel that I was a bit cheated on the whole Liam Neeson fighting wolves straight up but overall I really enjoyed watching it. Great review by the way!!

  3. came in to check out your review. nice. this is also my favorite hollywood movie so far this year but the year has just begun. you’re right, this time of year, not much to write home about on the movie front but this was a welcome addition.

    as for plane crash scenes, i’d say the one in ‘knowing’ was the best i’ve ever seen.

  4. I really enjoy LIam Neeson in general, but sometimes I think he can be the same “Liam Neeson action character” in films. It’s nice to hear that he’s strayed a little from previous films to give a little different performance. I really didn’t look forward to this film, but it’s nice to hear some positive things about it. I might actually consider it now! I always enjoy reading your hilarious take on films, Dan!

    • Thanks Kristin! Definitely give this one a shot considering it definitely lives beyond the terrible expectations people had planned for it already.

  5. I was really surprised by this movie. I love it when a movie can surprise you like this one. Thank God that Carnahan is back to his stylish roots after The A Team. Great review!

  6. I think you captured this movie really well. While I agree that this movie executed its attempts at philosophical themes rather poorly, the scene concerning discussion of faith sets up quite well for Neeson’s later confrontation with God. This, in my opinion, is the true ending of the film. Ottway has resolved his conflict quite finally. At this point it feels like we have seen the full development of this character when he faces the wolves, which makes the cut out even more effective. (I just wish they would have left out the goofy broken-glass-knuckles if they weren’t even going to show the fight). I’m curious what you think about that?

    • It was a little goofy to have but to put that in the trailer, was a big bummer considering that we don’t get to exactly see the big fight. Thanks Scott!

  7. From the sounds of it skipping the trailer for this one makes a massive difference in how much you will enjoy it. I went in knowing no specific details, just the schlocky survival action premise, and so felt none of that disappointment when those suggested scenes didn’t eventuate.

    Glad you were still able to like the flick though Dan, and a good review too.

  8. DTMMR and I are pretty in sync with our thoughts about this movie. Liam Neeson will appear in three other movies this year, according to IMDB. It’ll be interesting to see him in “The Dark Knight Rises” but “The Grey” will most likely the best of all his performances.

  9. It seems like a lot of people enjoyed this which is surprising because it looked like your generic Liam Neeson action-thriller. Looking forward to renting this!

  10. Nice review, I NEED to see this movie. I love the way Neelson has become this ass-kicking B-Movie action star all of a sudden. He fits the role pretty well, and I’m sure the first choice for the role in this film, Bradley Cooper, wouldn’t have been half as convincing.

  11. I have the greatest of hopes for “The Grey” as I plan to watch it this weekend. I just read the very warm review that the NYTimes gave the film that is now supported by yours.
    It is definitely very interesting how Liam Neeson seems to have revitalized his career as an action hero, with the intellect and the gravitas of a great actor capable of bringing depth to films that would otherwise be a total waste of time.

    – Niels

  12. It’s interesting to find so many positive reviews for this film out there right now. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, but most people seem to be pleasantly surprised by it. Might have to check it out.

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