Liam Neeson in the past few years has become the actor known for “kicking a** and taking names.” Just look at what he did in Taken and Unknown. The Grey is not a huge departure from those roles, but this time he is going up against some nasty wolves instead of unseemly humans.
The Grey is a survivalist film, pitting man against nature. A plane crashes that contains part of the crew of a plant that is in a remote part of Alaska. They are on their way to Anchorage when something goes amiss and they crash land in the middle of nowhere. The few survivors of the crash soon figure out that they have company, a pack of wolves hell-bent on killing each of them just for fun. Lucky for them, Ottway (Liam Neeson) has survived as well. Ottway is a trained sniper who protects the plant and the workers from wolves and other undesirables. The survivors leave the crash site to hopefully find civilization. Unbeknownst to them, the wolves are following them.
The parts of the film that I enjoyed the most are the beginning and the end. Both of these parts have a kind of silence and calm to them. In the beginning, Ottway is ruminating on his life and what has happened to him. There is a woman who he thinks about constantly. We frequently see her lying in a bed with him, whispering words to him, throughout the film. Ottway is alone and he keeps to himself, and this becomes plainly clear in the remoteness of this plant’s location. He also thinks about his father in Ireland, and a passage that his father had framed on his wall. In the beginning, the passage is blurry, but as the film progresses, the writing becomes clearer as Ottway comes to understand the meaning. Both the end and the beginning are somewhat beautiful as well due to the musical score by Marc Strietenfeld playing in the background.
Liam Neeson once again shows us acting prowess in The Grey. He is the central character and rightly so. It was my impression that he delved pretty deeply into this character, more so than the aforementioned Taken and Unknown. Ottway is a complex man, not the typical hero type. The survivors that join Liam Neeson are Dallas Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Nonso Anozie, Joe Anderson, Ben Bray, Frank Grillo, and James Badge Dale. Each actor had a character that on the surface looked just like a typical labor working man, but as certain events happened, their characters’ past become known and their actions make them more endearing to the audience.
The humongous issue that I have with The Grey is the wolves. The wolves are this pack of manhunting animals that are more vicious and larger than any wolf you would ever see in the wild. It is clear from a scene in the beginning of the film, that it is not just the pack of wolves that we meet after the plane crashes that these traits apply to, but to all wolves associated with this story. I could not suspend my animal behaviorist belief for one second to get my mind around how wolves are portrayed in this film. Wolves do not attack people, and they are certainly not as large or as vicious as these. The only way I could see a wolf attacking someone is if it is being threatened or starving. The Grey wolves are more akin both in size and temperament to the ones seen in the Twilight films. My issues with how wolves are used in this film could have been totally quelled if there had just been some sort of comment about these wolves being mutant wolves or they had evolved into these nasty creatures. The segment of the audience that knows nothing of wolves will love this film because there is nothing at the back of their mind saying “Huh?” like mine did. Disbelief will have to be suspended to enjoy this film and have any real belief that what is going on onscreen could actually happen. Damn my scientific mind for not letting me enjoy this film!
If you have seen the trailers for The Grey, you are prepared for Liam Neeson to take on a wolf with his bare hands, assisted by some broken mini liquor bottles attached to his hand with tape. Come on, who does not want to see this? This fight is in the film, but you will have to wait for the very end of the film and you will have to use your imagination and deduction skills to determine who won. Stay after the credits for a brief scene that may either show you who won or keep you guessing.
The Grey is a great survivalist film that takes you on a ride seeing if man can survive desolation, winter, and wolves all at the same time. Unfortunately, how wolves are portrayed in the film will not allow me to give it a higher rating. Yes, this is a work of fiction, but when the story is grounded in the real world and deals with real subjects like death, I have to question why the filmmakers decided to make the wolves so ridiculously unreal.
I give The Grey 3 “Twilight Wolves” out of 5.