The Grey: A Review

*Disclaimer: There might be some spoiler alerts. They aren’t overly specific, but if you haven’t heard much about this movie and you want to see it despite the lack of foreknowledge and my urging that you educate yourself even a little lest you end up disappointed, I would suggest you stop reading here and now.*

Last night my boyfriend and I walked to our local movie theater to go on an exciting journey with the wonderful Liam Neeson.  What followed was 2 hours of the saddest, most beautiful, gruesome film I have ever seen.

The Grey, starring Mr. Neeson (Taken) and written and directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin Aces), is not your typical survival movie.  Nor is it a feel-good movie about man versus nature, as the trailers lead you to believe.  It is dark, heavy, and will, more likely than not, bring you to tears.  If you want a movie with a happy ending, get your kids or younger relatives and watch their favorite animated Disney flick.  You’ll especially need it after watching this film.

Now, all that being said, I absolutely loved this film.  Never before have I seen a movie that was so honest with itself that it didn’t need to hold back.  I said before that this is a dark movie, and I mean that.  On the surface, it’s about a rag tag team of Alaskan oil workers who miraculously survive a deadly plane crash and have to fight against a pack of giant timber wolves to survive and await rescue.  Subtly, and yet not so subtly, it’s a movie about a group of men from all different stages of life, all different ethnicities and backgrounds, coming face to face with their own mortality.

I must note here, I am a huge Liam Neeson fan.  I am doing my best to write an unbiased review, but I must maintain that no matter how I portray it, I will still have some bias.  I must also admit that I was hesitant to see this film after my mother, whose movie opinions I highly respect, walked out after only an hour.  Upon her critique, I decided to do a little research and find out what would cause her to walk out of a theater after watching less than half of the movie.  Now, I won’t spoil anything for those of you who have not yet seen it, but I will say that reading a few synopses (may contain spoilers) and reviews gave me a better picture than the trailers did of what the movie was about.

Thus, I went in with the right perspective.  A perspective I am hoping to impart on you here with this review.  You cannot go into this movie expecting everything to turn out as most movies would.  This movie is about every man’s inevitable demise and a commentary of how we can come to accept our fates.  Each of the survivors has their hopes and each copes with their impending doom in a different fashion.  A dark metaphor for life, as the wolves are a metaphor for death.

The only flaw this movie had was it’s incredibly unrealistic portrayal of Alaskan timber wolves.  Granted, wolves threatened near their den will defend it by putting on a good offense, but they are not as big, nor vicious, as the movie leads us to believe.  Plus, wolves are fairly nomadic creatures, they move constantly, always seeking food or shelter, with a sufficiently large territory. They only build their dens in the summer, when the female produces a litter.  The movie obviously took place in the dead of winter, based on the weather, so the likelihood of the wolves protecting their den is slim to none.  But if the wolves were portrayed as “normal,” this would not have been a thriller and it would not have been nearly as effective, so I was willing to overlook it as I was watching.

The cinematography in this film is breathtaking, as it was shot in British Columbia by Masanobu Takayanagi.  There are several awe-inspiring views in the second half of the movie.  In particular, the view that Frank Grillo‘s (Prison Break) character points out as he’s dealing with his fatigue late into the movie.  One other point I’d like to make is that the casting could not have been better for a film like this.  The character of John Ottway was written for Neeson, despite originally being casted to Bradley Cooper.  And the fact that the remaining characters were not big names [Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts (3:10 To Yuma), Dermot Mulroney (The Family Stone), and Nonso Anozie (Conan the Barbarian)] served to give it a more emotional feel. Finally, the directing was phenomenal.  Part of the reason it feels so real when you watch it, is because Carnahan “did not want to film [them] acting, he wanted to film [them] behaving.  So he threw [them] in extreme conditions and got just that” (Mulroney).  Most of the weather elements you see in the film were not edited in, adding to the realism of the film.

My mom left because it was gruesome.  I will not deny it, the first hour can be hard to swallow.  Several characters are attacked and eaten alive.  But if that doesn’t phase you, or you can make it through that, the second hour is more personal.  It deals with the emotions of the remaining men and their battles with fate and their turmoil with the existence (or lack thereof) of a God.  The wolves continue to chase after them and attack them, but after they get out of the open, no one else is eaten alive.  Again I say that this is not a cheerful movie.  It takes risks most movies don’t take.  But it’s effective. And beautiful.  And I hope you’ll go see it.  Just don’t be jaded by the trailers.  Go into it knowing it is more than just a survival story.  Be prepared for anything.  Think like Neeson’s characters (not just this one, but any character he has ever portrayed) and adapt as the characters on the screen adapt to each new situation.  If you do that, you can come out of this film satisfied.

As this wouldn’t be much of a review without some sort of score, I give it a 9/10, since the wolves were fairly unrealistic.  I do hope you’ll go see this movie, if you haven’t already.  And if you were like my mom and walked out because it wasn’t what you were expecting, I hope you’ll see it again with this new perspective.  All I know is I can’t wait to own this movie.

Once more into the fray…

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~ by Sara on February 8, 2012.

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