Liam vs. Wild
If I have learned anything from the movies in recent years, it is that you don’t mess with Liam Neeson. He’s filled the shoes that fifteen years ago belonged to Harrison Ford in movies like Air Force One. It seems there is one species that hasn’t gotten the message about the actor’s toughness, however, as the wolves of the Alaskan wilderness that make up the villains of The Grey don’t seem intimidated one bit.
Neeson plays Ottway, a security guard for an oil drilling facility that exists in one of the forgotten corners of the Earth. Specifically, his job is to protect the workers from the aggressive wolves that live in the area, killing them with his high-powered rifle whenever they threaten to attack. The wolves get their opportunity for revenge, however, when the plane carrying Ottway and part of the crew back to civilization crashes in the middle of nowhere.
The wolves immediately mark their territory and Ottway begins to suspect that they have crashed near their den. He and his fellow survivors decide to head south toward the tree line, where they will hopefully be able to escape the wolves, or at least better defend themselves. Fighting to survive, they have only what they were able to carry away from the downed plane, making it necessary for them to improvise some “MacGyver bulls***” to fight with. Unfortunately, as they continue, it becomes clearer that they are definitely playing on the wolves’ home turf.
As expected, Liam Neeson carries this movie every bit of the way and you can instantly see why the rest of the survivors immediately gravitate toward him as their leader. There’s more to him than just toughness, however, as an early scene shows just how fragile of a state he is in. He’s also not afraid to admit that he is scared, a revelation that eventually helps to soften the tough guy façade put on by one of his fellow survivors. The rest of the cast hold their own and are each given their own moments.
As good as the human cast is, it is the villainous wolves who steal the show. Not necessarily the wolves themselves, but how the movie presents them. Although there are plenty of close-ups with the wolves confronting their prey in the open, they are mostly kept in the darkness. The wolves are their most fearsome when they are represented by the lights of their eyes penetrating through the darkness, or the warmth of their breath misting from behind the trees. Even when there is no visual representation of the wolves, the movie’s fantastic sound effects keep both the characters and the audience in a claustrophobic state of fear.
Early on in the movie, the by-the-numbers plot had me wondering if there were going to be any surprises in The Grey, or if we were just going to see the wolves pick off the survivors one-by-one. The plot did continue to follow that pattern and it is pretty easy to see who is going to be the next victim, but once the survivors reach the woods, the movie does expand on who each of the remaining characters is, which helps to offset the predictable plot.
There was realistically only one way for The Grey to end and I compliment director Joe Carnahan for wrapping the movie up how he did. It really is the only way this movie could have ended and to try and end it some other way would have lessened the impact.
The Grey is rated R for “violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.” Wolves tearing at human flesh and tough guy language are definitely enough to warrant the R rating.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Grey.