Review: The Grey

Liam Neeson in The Grey

Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Initially billed as Liam Neeson hobo-fightin’ a pack of wolves, The Grey is an existential film about man vs. nature and a survival film.  If you go in expecting Taken in the frozen tundra, be prepared to be disappointed.

Haggard and depressed, Neeson’s Ottway finds work as a sniper for an oil drilling team in Alaska. Stranded after their plane crashes in the freezing plains, they find themselves at the mercy of a pack of wolves that see them as fresh food.

Carnahan’s The Grey is a grim but fascinating affair about the human spirit with the spectre of death ever present. What’s keeping these men going is the promise that salvation is past the next tree line, the next ridge or round the river bend. There’s nary a bad performance in the cast featuring a few actors you’ll recognise and some you won’t. Neeson, thankfully in an Irish accent instead of a full blown American one, leads the cast, carrying the burden of keeping these men alive with his survival skills and knowledge of the wolves’ behaviour.

Carnahan’s script etches each character with a life that stretches beyond the frosty landscape, with regret and fear becoming the primary emotions once they realise the odds aren’t in their favour. Placing them in a harsh environment means we’re rooting for them to survive; the characterisation gives the viewer a clearer indication of why they’re so desperate to carry on.

There is one drawback to the film. The film’s budget feels a bit paltry. The plane crash is a little rough in terms of the CGI (the build-up to it is unnerving). The limitation of the budget is apparent anytime the wolves appear with Carnahan wisely not showing them in full but conveying their presence through sound design and some clever visuals.

Completely dissimilar to his recent spate of Euro-trash action films like Unknown and Taken, The Grey is an impressive survival drama that bucks the trend of late winter releases being disappointing. A pinch of salt should be taken with regards to the type of action on display but Carnahan shows some skill in making a heartfelt and gutsy film about the will to survive. The ending is certain to polarise audiences but like the rest of the film, it’s tough and uncompromising.



Posted on 13/02/2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great review! I think the budget limitations did this film the a lot of favours! The less you see of CGI wolves the better!

    • It is a good thing about the low budget! I just think that when it tries to do something a little bigger, the budget can’t quite match up with Carnahan’s ambition. Terrific film though

  2. Great review. Neeson is out-standing here and gives probably one of his best performances that we have seen from him in a very long time. The rest of the film also works because there’s not only this certain paranoia going on but even when the “action” comes, it’s tense, brutal, and surprising. Best film of the year so far even though that’s definitely not saying much.

    • It’s certainly my favourite film of the year so far. I haven’t been a huge fan of Carnahan’s recent work (save for Narc) but for me this is the kind of film I’d like to see him make more often. In the UK we’re getting the glut of films that came out in the US two to three months ago so it’s very much a period where the quality is quite high amongst new releases. 🙂

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