Director(s): Joe Carnahan
Writer(s): Joe Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie and James Badge Dale
Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on
Release Date(s)Jan 27, 2012 - Wide
When one thinks about Alaska, visions of mountains and whale watching come to mind. In The Grey, the stark reality of the forgotten, uninhabitable parts of that region are shown. The Grey is about survival and outwitting one’s enemy, but what happens when the enemy is the climate and wolves that surround your every move?
John Ottway (Liam Neeson) works on an oil rig in Alaska as a sharp shooter killing the animals, like bears and wolves that threaten the workers around him. They are workers on a pumping station in a place that employs men “unfit for mankind”. He writes a suicide letter to his wife, puts his rifle in his mouth and is about to to pull the trigger when he hears the cries of a wolf outside. He takes his rifle and kills the wolf with it, thwarting his plans of his own death. Once the job is finished on the rig, the oil company workers leave their work place on a plane that crashes in a snow storm. Assessing the situation, Ottway realizes that the surviving seven men (which quickly turns to six) need to leave the area they are in because it most likely that they will be attacked by wolves. On their trek to a hopeful rescue, the small group of men find that dealing with the wolves and the elements becomes unbearable.
The Grey uses the desolate landscape of Alaska and the wolves as essential characters in the film. The men have to deal with their environments as well as each other having their fate repeatedly tested. Quickly Diaz (Frank Grillo) becomes the obstinate member who questions much of the logic and education that Ottway uses to lead the group. The character of Talget (Dermot Mulroney), shows a more thoughtful person, one that is eager to get back to his daughter. The quest for survival is as daunting as the unrelenting weather and the wolves seldom let the men rest as they make their way through Alaska.
Neeson has become a formidable action star that belittles some actors that wear the moniker on their sleeve. His range between despair at the beginning of the film to unrelenting survival at every cost shows Neeson’s talent. What sets Neeson apart from some other action stars is that he uses his acting talents in a way that forms and rounds out his characters rather than leaving them shallow and one dimensional. The poem “Once more into the fray… / Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. / Live and die on this day… / Live and die on this day…” is used at various times in the movie. It is used as a running theme throughout, being explained by Neeson that it was a poem that hung above his father’s desk. The poem is used to show strength and determination as well as despair.
The Grey is a superb film that will make viewers think about life and death and the struggle between survival at all costs or giving up entirely on a seemingly hopeless situation. The character development of the surviving men challenges their personalities with the challenges of being stranded in a desolate area. Not knowing if salvation is at hand, the demanding tests the men are put through are punishing and unrelenting in themselves.