The Grey - Review


Since 2008's "Taken", Liam Neeson somehow more and more headed towards action movies. What originally felt very strange and out of place for an actor like him, suprisingly turned out very well. His depictions of Bourne-like action heroes triumphed via intense and realistic depictions of violence and action. With "The Grey" Liam Neeson obviously has found a new villain to fight. Mother Nature...or to be precise: Wolves!



The plot:
Crude oil workers in Alaska are heading home for a 2-week vacation, after working grueling shifts. On their way home, they encounter a vicious storm that brings their plane crashing down in the Alaskan tundra. 8 survivors must now find their way to civilization, but they are haunted by merciless, vicious wolves that follow their every step.

Simply by judging the trailers, "The Grey" seems like a Liam Neeson badass action survival flick. This is only partially true. Although the trailers show you another "actioner" a la "Taken", it is actually more story and character driven than action-oriented. "The Grey" is an incredibly atmospheric film. For a movie that soly takes place in white open fields of snow and ice, director Joe Carnahan truely knows how to build up the feel of isolation and despair.
The movie is almost entirely made out of contrasts: loud and silent, the cold nature and the warm dreamland that Neeson tries to escape to.
Furthermore, there are very obvious undertones of philosophy scattered throughout the "adventure", adding to the symbolism in the film.
(For example: the wolves = force of nature that puts the survivors to the test whether they give themselves up or not)

Regarding the wolves as the main villains, in the movie the wolves are really pushed to some limits in terms of belivability: they are far more aggressive than real wolves as far as i know, and are slightly bigger as it seems. But otherwise i guess the movie just wouldn't work. Also, the wolves are supposed to be mysteriously aggressive and again, symbols of nature testing the survivors' will to live.
With that said, the movie might not be completely accurate in its portrayal of how wild wolves really are, but it doesn't stick out too much and adds a new extreme to the danger of being lost in a snowy desert.
You can compare the portrayal of the wolves to the lions from "The Ghost and the Darkness". Although at some points in the movie it is also specifically said that those wolves don't act like normal ones, enhancing the mystery.

Throughout the movie the idea of just freezing to death becomes more and more pleasant to the survivors. It seems to be a better option than getting eaten alive by wolves. But THAT is exactly what this movie is about: not giving up.

The acting in "The Grey" has a much bigger emphasis than expected. Most probably because "The Grey" is much more talky and dialogue-heavy than what the trailers show. As a whole, the acting is suprisingly impressive. Liam Neeson does great as a broken and very introvert man struggling between life and death, reality and dreamworld, giving up and surviving. The crew of survivors (supporting cast) in particular act very natural and real. Especially the reactions to dramatic events feel very authentic.

Further following the theme of "realism" the dialogue feels anything but forced. The characters act, emote and speak about things that people in that kind of situation would really speak about.
As i already mentioned, there are quite some philosophical undertones in the dialogue, for example at some uncomfortably silent moments at a campfire, in which the survivors talk about people, how they became what they are, faith, death, whether they are going to survive this or not,etc..

While not being revolutionary in storytelling or acting. You start to get to know the characters that you are stuck with the whole experience and start to really care for them. You want to see them get out of this. At the same time you are growing a gigantic hatred towards those fucking wolves, hoping in vain for Liam Neeson to get his payoff.

While actual "action" scenes are fairly rare in "The Grey", they are very intensely and (again) realistically shot. The plane crash in particular sends chills down the viewers spine because the camera work lets you feel like you are actually inside that same plane.
The movie's entirety has some kind of rawness to it, that adds much to the realism.
Action junkies won't get much "action" out of this flick, but as i already said, the movie is more about the story and the involvment in the characters than actual action.
It's a case of "false marketing" i guess.

Contradicting to the whole "realism" theme, there IS some use of CGI considering the wolves. But to be fair, it's hard to tell when the wolves are real and when it's CGI. At times you can spot the CGI but it never pulls you out of the atmosphere. And THAT'S what shows good use of computer effects. Therefore, i had no problem with the CGI here.

Finally, my only big complaint unfortunately has to be related to the ending of the movie:
I don't want to spoil anything but despite all the praise i give this flick, i also have to say that it is let down by one of the stupidest, most abrupt and unsatisfying endings of this entire year!

Overall, "The Grey" is one of the best man vs. wild movies i have seen for a long long time. Not only does it amazingly showcase and handle realism, but it also manages to smoothly mix it with philosophical undertones and mystery.
Yet still, strangely enough, "The Grey" is a movie that has been marketed the wrong way. While the trailers show you another badass neeson action movie, "The Grey" is a much more effective horror movie than an action flick. Through an exceptionally great tension build-up "The Grey" is an even better horror film than most ACTUAL horror movies out there.
Despite a very unsatisfying ending, it's a very involving experience, round up by a talented cast and another great badass performance from Liam Neeson. You should definitely go on this spooky trip called "The Grey".


Final Verdict: 7 out of 10

 

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