The Grey (2012)
By: Devon B. on February 29, 2012  | 
Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring:: Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Nonso Anozie
Screnplay: Joe Carnahan, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Country: USA
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I read a review of The Grey last week, and got super excited. The film was described as an action thriller that pitted Liam Neeson against a pack of wolves. In my mind the film's title instantly changed to Liam Neeson Versus Some Wolves in place of the rather obscure The Grey. Despite his starring in The Phantom Menace, I like Neeson a lot and feel his presence instantly elevates the quality of any film he's in, even The Phantom Menace, which he elevated to the level of total shitaster. But it wasn't just Neeson that piqued my interest, a movie called Liam Neeson Versus Some Wolves must also have some killer wolves, and once I read the review I realised I've been waiting my whole life to see a movie with killer wolves fighting Liam Neeson. It became clear that Liam Neeson Versus Some Wolves was surely going to be the best movie of all time. What I should've remembered was that the movie was actually called The Grey.

Liam Neeson, thankfully allowed to keep his Irish accent, is a depressed guy working as wolf security for an oil drilling company. Heading home from a remote Alaskan location, Neeson's plane hits a wee patch of turbulence and then crashes. Neeson survives the crash, the better to fight wolves with, and so do a handful of other characters. The men at first just try to get enough supplies to survive the bitter cold, but soon find they are also going to have to deal with a threat of a much more violent nature. The plane has unfortunately crashed near some wolves that ain't much for dancin', but are much for bitin'. The men, led by Neeson, know they must move on or die of exposure, but are uncertain whether their trek will take them further into the wolves' territory and make the pack even more aggressive. Whenever there's not an immediate threat to their lives, the men have deep and meaningful existentialist talks. This last bit is why the film is much more The Grey and much less Liam Neeson Versus Some Wolves.

Wolves were demonised in literature and folklore for centuries until a lot of their reported sinister behaviour was debunked. The Grey does make the wolves out to be ferocious, but presents reasons for their actions, though the reasons don't always seem realistic. That wasn't too much of a concern for me since the wolves can almost be viewed as symbols because this movie is more about the human condition than it is Liam Neeson fighting wolves. Plus, any excuse for a wolf war was fine by me.

It wasn't exactly what I hoped for, but The Grey is not a bad movie by any means. I love quite a few movies that are about the psychological situation people find themselves in when they're trapped by something that wants to eat them, but The Grey did occasionally have me saying, "Quit talking and get on with it." This response was undoubtedly due to my initial expectations. Given my dashed hopes of an action packed canine collision, The Grey must have a lot of great things about it if I left the theatre saying it was a good movie. The bleak cold of the wilderness is beautifully captured and the film painstakingly presents the thin margin that can separate surviving or perishing in life or death situations. I've chastised the talky nature of the film, but if I'm being honest this does allow the characters to develop so as to make the viewer invest more in what's going to happen to them. This allows the tension to heighten, so some of the wolf attacks are truly haunting moments that play like living nightmares. Those moments mean that if you're a patient viewer just after some animal attack goodness, The Grey does deliver, helped immeasurably by some damn fine FX work courtesy of KNB. You no longer need to wonder what it would be like to feel cold and have wolves after you, The Grey shows you exactly what it would mean.

Be sure to stay tuned through the credits for a vital coda.
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