Review: The Grey
Those looking for a high-charged dose of intensity (!) need look no further than Liam Neeson’s new survival thriller The Grey. The Alaskan set showdown between man and animal is a grim display of the forces of nature, whilst questioning the nature of faith. Plus, it sees Neeson punching a wolf in the face.
The Grey’s protagonist is Ottway (Neeson) offers a voice over in the film’s early minutes as he composes a remorseful letter explaining himself. A hired-gun for a large petroleum company, he hunts wolves in order to protect his co-workers, fellow men “unfit for mankind”. He is a man who has lost the will to live, but that very will is about to be put to the test. A company flight, caught in the midst of a severe snow storm meets a horrific fate in a spectacularly unnerving sequence. It may not be the most realistic plane crash ever committed to celluloid, but it damn well feels like it. Once the smoke clears, seven survivors find themselves stranded in the vast Alaskan wilderness with little hope of rescue. Things go from incredibly bad to extremely worse when wolf expert Ottway realises they’ve landed within a wolf pack’s kill zone, the 30 mile radius surrounding their den. As men struggle to fend off certain death, which is seen to take many gruesome forms as their numbers dwindle.
Hemophobes may want to be aware that The Grey could have just as easily been entitled The Red due to how much crimson is splashed across all that pristine white snow. The visuals and the accompanying tension are full-on. The wolf attacks are often sudden and highly startling and the end results are never pretty. The plot here is simple enough as the motley crew of survivors desperately search for hope and clash with one another. The beauty of The Grey is how well each scene is set-up and shot. It is easy to feel the desperation the group are experiencing. The snow is relentless and the predators equally unrelenting. Coming up on 60, Neeson further establishes himself as one ofHollywood’s go-to action stars. His bravery and fearlessness flows naturally and makes it easy to become wrapped up in this frozen, desolate world. His fellow survivors are well cast, allowing for a strong mix of personalities and a nice snapshot of strained humanity.
Sound design plays an important role here and suitable makes hairs stand on end as the wolves move in. Slick editing and camera work maximise the effects of the horrific events as they unfurl. In fact, most everything about The Grey is well-done, thanks to the steady hand of director Joe Carnahan, who has crafted a far more compelling piece than would have been expected of the subject matter. The only noteworthy flaw is the unnecessary post-credits scene that actually detracts from the brilliance of the film’s closing moments.
The Grey is a pulse-pounding, beast of a film. It digs its teeth into the viewer and refuses to let go until the trials of the physical and spiritual journey have reached their apex. This is very much Neeson’s show and he owns the film. The Grey is brutally violent out of necessity and this harrowing tale of tragedy will leave a lengthy path of shaken audiences in its wake. 9/10