Movie Review: ‘The Grey’

The Grey posterDirector: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermont Mulroney, Dallas Roberts

Plot: A plane carrying the employees of an oil drilling operation crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. John Ottoway, employed by the company to kill wolves threatening the team and verging on suicide, finds himself leading the survivors towards salvation while the elements and a pack of dangerous wolves threaten them at every move.

Review: Taking a look at the previous works of director Joe Carnahan leads us to expect certain things. Big action, sharp barbs and little substance under the flash. Yet from the director of NARC and The A-Team comes this slow burn and strangely thoughtful movie that looks like a drama but walks like a horror. The concept is simple in the surface. A group of tough manly men find themselves in a situation they can’t control – man vs nature at its most stripped down element. Yet there’s more at work here that leaves us with a rather bitter-sweet experience.

The Grey

Like a sad Liam Neeson.

The plot is a little slow to start with but when things start to take a turn for the worse we’ve already got enough of a flavour of each character. At the beginning each seems to fit a basic archetype and one familiar with the formula may be able to predict the order in which they will meet their end. Surprisingly quite a bit of time is spent developing the characters further through the banter between the group as they struggle to survive. Given the amount of time they have to spend huddled around a fire in the snow this is a good use of the script, and as things progress and each character is further developed it gives the viewer more investment in their survival.

The Grey

Throughout the film the direction is solid with Carnahan making excellent use of the environment. Whether we’re looking at wide vistas or a tiny circle of light surrounding the fire that represents their protection from the wild we never lose sight of world that they’ve become trapped in. Carnahan has made strong use of the light and darkness, drawing a sharp contrast between to two at moments when the suspense is being ratcheted. The first moment when the eyes of the wolves appear through the night is downright chilling. The frequent use of flashbacks that overlap in the present action avoid being overdone as a stylistic motif.

The Grey

Performance wise the movie belongs solely to Neeson. He slips easily into the grizzled mountain man routine just as easily as he plays the tortured man. If the idea of seeing Liam Neeson facing down a pack of wolves appeals to you then this won’t disappoint. As a whole the movie follows the tropes of the horror genre comfortably packaged with a philosophical agenda. The ending is unfortunately abrupt without giving a clear sense of closure, which distracts from the overall enjoyment of the film, but up until that point it’s a damn fine movie.

Score: EIGHT outta TEN