Movie Review: ‘The Grey’ is Liam Neeson’s Return to his Dramatic Roots
Starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney and Ben Brey, The Grey tells the story of a group of oil drillers in Alaska whose plane crashes in the wilderness on their flight home. Only a handful of men survive and now, with most of them harboring some sort of injury, they must work together if they want to survive the fierce icy weather and the pack of ferocious wolves who are hunting them down.
As you may have guessed, the self-appointed leader of the survivors is Liam Neeson, known as Ottway in the film, as his job while working at the oil drilling sites was to shoot and kill any wolves who tried to attack the workers while in the field. Ottway is an interesting character because the day before the crash he was contemplating suicide since his wife left him. As the men travel through the wilderness, we see flashbacks of Ottway’s most profound memory with his wife. While it is a source of weakness for him, that memory along with a poem his father wrote manages to give him the necessary strength as he leads the men through the brutal wilderness, determined to survive the elements and its predators by any means necessary; a complete 180 degree flip in philosophy from the night before.
The Grey is written, directed and produced by Joe Carnahan, the man who wrote and directed both Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team. While he is no stranger to the action genre, Carnahan takes his first real crack at the slow burning dramatic thriller as this movie isn’t an action film by any means. Yes, Liam Neeson’s character is kind of badass, but this movie is about the group of characters and their struggle to survive. Can they put up with each other and will they be able to form a strong enough bond to work together in order to stay alive?
The movie is about two hours long which, for some people, will be a major turnoff since there is a lot of walking in this movie. This is important to know because if you start getting anxious you will hate this film. While I was expecting something completely different I didn’t despise the feature. There were some very powerful moments in the film which were elevated even higher by the very emotional score. One such moment is when Ottway helps a man come to terms with the fact that he is dying and helps calmly guide him into the afterlife. Neeson’s performance in this scene is one of his most powerful to date as both the audience and the characters surrounding the dying man become completely absorbed by his soothing speech.
As for the rest of the movie, the wolves look fantastic but some of the landscape effects when blending in with the real environment look terrible. The rest of the actors I thought did a solid job even if you could tell a few of them were trying just a bit too hard to be emotional. There were also moments that felt very unrealistic and very Hollywood-esque, [minor spoiler] particularly near the end when Neeson and the Alpha wolf look to square off. [end spoiler] but it doesn’t take too much away from the movie.
I will warn you right now, and this is not really a spoiler at all, but the trailer for this film is extremely deceptive. If you think that Neeson will engage in hand to hand combat against a wolf then, like myself, you have been greatly mislead. That was the one moment of the film that I was looking forward to the most and it never happens. I won’t explain why but I feel it is important for you to know as it is something the trailer seems to promise.
Overall, The Grey is a decent survival film that rests solely on Liam Neeson’s dramatic performance and occasionally on the very cool wolf attacks. It is a long feature that gives you ample time to get to know and appreciate the characters but it is also deceptive because of the way the film has been marketed. With an excellent score, a down to earth tale and an almost spiritual feel to it, The Grey will manage to keep hold of you for a majority of its duration.
Rating: While it’s not what you’re expecting, it’s an average wilderness drama that’s elevated by Liam Neeson’s excellent performance (6.3/10)