Review: The Grey

If you’d seen any of the marketing for The Grey, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the movie was just a dumb action flick where Liam Neeson tapes up his fists with broken glass and punches the shit out of some wolves. It’s certainly what I thought. But you’d be wrong. Director Joe Carnahan delivers a film that’s a hell of a lot more thoughtful and considered.

The Grey tells the tale of Ottway (Liam Neeson), a huntsman tasked with protecting an oil refinery and its workers from the more dangerous Alaskan wildlife. Allowed a two week vacation, he and his fellow workers board a plane to head home. Unfortunately, the aircraft gets caught in a vicious storm and is forced down into the frozen tundra. Ottway and seven other passengers survive the crash and very soon come to the realisation that they’ll have to make their own way to civilisation. As if their plight wasn’t serious enough, they find crash-landed right in the middle of the hunting grounds of a pack of vicious wolves.

It would be easy to write off The Grey as a cross between Jaws and Alive, as the survivors make their way through the harsh wilderness, stalked at every turn by the mysterious wolves. But it’s the way the film deals with survival, and the nature of life and death, that lifts it above your usual fare. The first character we see die on-screen is handled in such an atypically movie-type way that it leaves you off-kilter for the rest of the movie. The rest of the survivors are fleshed out enough that you root for them and feel the loss when they are inevitably picked off by wolves or the brutal environment.

Liam Neeson’s evolution from respected actor to one of Hollywood’s leading action men (not that the two are mutually exclusive) has to be one of the more interesting things to happen in movies in recent times. Are we finally becoming bored of the talentless muscle man or the bland pretty boy in our action films? Is it Neeson’s rugged everyman we relate to? Whatever the reason, we can be glad because he adds a gravitas to proceedings as the emotionally wounded Ottway. It’s Neeson’s powerful performance, that face, those eyes, that draws you in and keeps you rapt.

Let’s not get carried away, though. The film is not perfect. Not by a long shot. The “wolves as Mother Nature getting her revenge on the oil workers for destroying the environment” metaphor  is a little heavy-handed. The CGI effects are ropey at best. Also as the deaths rack up they get a little silly, undoing the good work that went before. And if you saw the trailer there’s a good chance you thought you’d be getting something else, which may leave you disappointed.

The Grey is so much better than the drunken Friday night viewing expectations of the folk who marketed the film. Carnahan directs with aplomb, finding some beautiful scenery, and giving some unexpected bumps and jumps along the way. It’s Neeson, though, who owns the film. His Ottway is emotionally fragile and spiritually broken, but somehow finds the inner-strength to drive himself, the survivors, and as a result, the movie, along. It’s well deserving of a couple of hours of your time (just remember to keep watching after the credits have rolled!)

The Grey is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.

More Reviews:

Iron Sky

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The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol



Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger


The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)



Super 8

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One Response to “Review: The Grey”

  1. I enjoyed this movie. Some of my friends walked out of thinking it was too long or depressing but to me that is what made it a good watch. I think you’re right that the marketing made it out to be the latest Liam Neeson action flick when it was really a sort of drama/thriller with astounding visuals. Great review!

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