WRITTEN BY: Joe Carnahan, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
DIRECTED BY: Joe Carnahan
STARRING: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo
RATING: 4 stars
I am fairly certain that if I survived a plane crash in the middle of nowhere and was then hunted down by a pack of wolves in the snow, I wouldn't last more than about five minutes. But then, I'm not Liam Neeson. Or rather, I'm not his character – John Ottway, the tough marksman who's job it is to kill wolves. Unfortunately, the trailer doesn’t do The Grey justice. It shows Neeson strapping broken bottles to his knuckles to fight a wolf like he's some kind of Wolverine character. The reality of that moment is actually quite impressive and fitting. The Grey is a fun film to watch because it is two hours full of suspense and excitement.
Based on Ian Mackenzie Jeffers' short story, The Grey is about an oil drilling team on board a plane that crashes in Alaska. Only seven people survive the crash and must then withstand the wild climate and a pack of wolves who feel threatened by their presence and begin to take them out one by one. Neeson's character is a man close to suicide before he's faced with the very real possibility of death and then fights hard to stay alive. He takes charge in the group and encourages them to work together to survive.
Joe Carnahan, the writer/director who brought us action films like Smokin' Aces and The A-Team, has produced his best work with The Grey. This film is far more complex and moving, and is certainly a more complete film. Carnahan has done a great job of producing some amazing sequences of action, such as the plane crashing (you almost feel like you're on the plane) and one scene where one of the survivors falls through some trees. The use of sound goes very well with these scenes, adding to the effect. The technical aspects are well supported by good performances from the cast of survivors whose characters are decently developed, and in Ottway's case, well developed.
What I love most about this film is that it's not just an action survival film. There’s actually some depth to it. The Grey deals with suicide, the value of a life and religion – all without being over the top or overly analytical. It's subtle and realistic. If you were in that position wouldn't you be wondering why God, or some almighty figure, would have you survive a plane crash only to be hunted by wolves? Wouldn't you shout to the sky for an answer even if the sky doesn't respond? Wouldn’t you have a heart-to-heart and share a few jokes with your fellow survivors? The film covers all of these aspects in brief moments dispersed between moments of suspenseful thrills.
I have to warn you that there are some gruesome moments as a result of the wolf attack scenes. If you can cope with that, The Grey is definitely worth seeing. You will be on the edge of your seat and the best part is that it doesn't follow a traditional Hollywood ending.