Saturday, 4 February 2012


Icon Film Distribution
Now Showing

Alive meets Jaws. That's one thumbnail description of the Joe Carnahan-Liam Neeson feature, The Grey, a survival tale with wolves instead of a shark. And while that description may sum it up succinctly, it misses the point of the film entirely.

When a plane carrying workers from an Alsaskan oil drilling operation crashlands in the frozen wilderness, only eight men walk away from the wreckage. Lucky for them, one of those men is Ottway (Neeson).

Hired by the oil company as a sniper to keep wolves and other aggressive wildlife from attacking the workers when in the field, Ottway is a good man to have around in a crisis. Level-headed, stoic and no bullshit, he also knows a thing or two about wolves.

That knowledge will come into its own soon enough when Ottway realises they have crashed inside the territory of a pack of wolves (a mix of real and not-so convincing GCI animals) who don't take kindly to outsiders, and start taking out the interlopers one-by-one.

Rather than fight, the survivors (which include Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts and Frank Grillo) choose flight, heading into the nearby woods where Ottway believes they have a better chance of fending off the wolf pack. But it's Mother Nature who will test these mens' physical and psychological fortitude.

There's little about Joe Carnahan's The Grey to suggest this is the same guy who directed the 2010 film version of The A-Team. That action film folly also starred Neeson, who deserved better, and perhaps the star felt Carnahan was capable of more also.

With a screenplay co-written with Ian McKenzie Jeffers, based on his own short story, Carnahan has made a film which matches both the beauty and horror of nature with man's similar capacity for good and evil, as well as his deep-rooted desire to survive no matter the situation or what awaits him should he do so.

That's not to say The Grey is without its share of bumps (the quasi-existensialism is sometimes too much) or action film cliches, but the reliably stoic presence of Neeson, who can bring gravitas to the silliest of situations (see 2008's guilty pleasure, Taken), goes a long way to overcoming those obstacles. Like Ottway, he's a good guy to have around in this type of situation.

Note: there is a very brief scene post-credits which doesn't really add anything to the film but may provide some form of closure for those who need it -- and those who don't want to be left out of the post-film conversation.

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