Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Grey

The Grey (2011)
Action, Adventure, Drama
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo

The presence of Liam Neeson is main reason that I wanted to see The Grey. I've become a bigger fan since I bought Taken and saw that he could even bring depth to a character in an action movie. Neeson seems authentic in just about any role, even if he's just providing the voice for an animated character.

In The Grey, Neeson is clearly the main character. We see him contemplate suicide at the start of the movie, before deciding against it. The story involves a group of oil workers stationed in Alaska. Ottway (Neeson) is a marksman who keeps the workers safe from wolves when they are at work. He carries a rifle and is always watching for possible attacks. He has a low opinion of most of the workers and doesn't enjoy having to spend time with them.

Ottway's world changes when he's involved in a plane crash. The oil workers encounter bad weather and turbulence, and the resulting crash leaves most of the group dead or dying. It's here that Ottway assumes a leadership role without being asked or voted in. Like the wolves he kills, his instincts cannot be denied. In the surviving group, it quickly becomes clear that he's the alpha. Ottway has a way of facing facts and helping others to accept the inevitable. This is perfectly illustrated when one of the crash victims dies in front of him. Ottway calms him and takes charge of the situation when the other men are incapable of deciding how to handle it.

The movie partly reminded me of The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins. Although this group of survivors is larger, and they are hunted by wolves instead of a bear, the terrain is similar. The Grey seems realistic and doesn't idealize the situation in any way. The men are in danger and fighting for their lives, and their actions are plausible. If you are facing a pack of wolves unarmed, your chances of survival are not good. The Grey doesn't shy away from that fact.

Action scenes are infrequent, but have considerable impact. How would you try to survive if you had no food or shelter and had to make your way through freezing snow? Would it be best to try to make your own way back to civilization, or stay at the crash site and hope for rescue?

The movie explores the characters of several of the crash survivors and we come to understand their individual choices. The setting is grim, so don't expect a heartwarming story. This is real.

I didn't know what to expect from The Grey, but it left me somewhat surprised. The body count was definitely higher than expected, and I assumed that the group would generate more internal conflict than it did. That said, I did feel as though I was a part of the quest for survival and I was engaged at all times. Neeson carried the movie, but three or four supporting characters were important to the story.

If you enjoy experiencing things that you are unlikely to witness in your real life, The Grey is a compelling story which transports you to an unfamiliar setting. If you are sensitive to watching characters get picked off one at a time, it might not be for you.

The Blu-ray offers a pleasing presentation. The audio is just about perfect, and you'll feel involved in scenes such as the plane crash. The picture quality is also very good, but sometimes appears intentionally grainy to heighten the effect of being lost in a bleak, snowy wilderness.

Overall score 4/5

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  1. loved reading your review as always steve :)

    THE GREY was as you touched upon incredibly engaging, the scenes where the team make their way across the ravine into the trees on the other side AND ALSO in the last quarter where one of the members are trapped beneath the icy waters was gripping stuff, NEESON has gotten better with age, his 6ft + stature and sulky movements make him quite menacing and full of authority, he truly led the movie and the team within.

    Thanks once more for a top review & look forward to the next one!

  2. Thanks. I thought it was about time I wrote a full review of something :)

    I loved that ravine scene. It was probably my favorite part of the movie. I think good acting is much more important than looking the part. I would much rather watch an accomplished actor convince me of his abilities, than see a physical specimen ex-wrestler or bodybuilder type who can't act to save his life.

  3. Great review. Liam Neeson is such a talent!

  4. Great review Steve. Neeson is out-standing here and gives probably one of his best performances that we have seen from him in a very long time. The rest of the film also works because there’s not only this certain paranoia going on but even when the “action” comes, it’s tense, brutal, and surprising. Best film of the year so far even though that’s definitely not saying much.

  5. Yep, Neeson is very good. I like the mention of his father because I thought it added depth to the character. I can't hear the name John Ottway without thinking of the singer though :)