Grey, The (2012)

Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, & Frank Grillo
Plot: In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
Awards: -
Runtime: 117min
Rating: M18 for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.


The Grey comes with the distinction of being a Ridley Scott production. And for most parts, it looks like one. Scott, who is responsible for films as great as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), and Gladiator (2000), produces this Joe Carnahan-directed picture revolving around Man's tenacity to overcome the perils of nature as  nature throws its gauntlet around them. Liam Neeson, who has had his fair share of commercial hits in recent years as an action antihero in films such as Taken (2008) and Unknown (2011), delivers a decent performance as the lead character, whom we root for to overcome all odds.

That character is Ottway. In the first act, he boards a plane with an oil drilling team to return home, presumably after months hard at work. They encounter terrifyingly strong turbulence during the ride, with the plane crashing in the middle of nowhere in the Alaskan wilderness. Ottway and an odd bunch of other folks survive, but they face an even greater danger than the freezing weather - hungry wolves that hunt in packs. On first thought, The Grey seems like a formulaic picture about survival and perseverance, a celebration of Man's tenacity to make it through the worst of conditions.

But a closer reading of the film unfolds something more. Carnahan's film is not so much about the theme of survival as it is about facing one's fears, taking an unsubtle philosophical stance on facing the prospect of death, especially when there is no other way to die except to be painfully devoured by merciless wolves. In other words, The Grey is a twist from survival films such as Frank Marshall's Alive (1993) and Peter Weir's The Way Back (2010). It is a more visceral take, and one that is formulaic only in execution rather than in conception.

I say it is formulaic in execution because the film follows arguably the most well-worn narrative structure of the horror genre: An overpowering aggressor picks on a group of innocent victims one by one. At least for the first half of the film, think of it as a zombie film, only that the zombies are wolves. There are some genuine "jump" moments that achieve their effect after some prolonged suspense. Thankfully, The Grey doesn't get stuck in horror film mode; the second half of the film is more thrilling than scary, with a few well-directed scenes of wolves chasing down the men in a sea of white.

For most parts, The Grey is entertaining. It is a decent February release that provides a relatively satisfying outlet for moviegoers to chill out to. Pity the aforementioned plane crash sequence, which is unconvincing as a result of poor editing. But at least the film tries to be something different, adopting a standard storytelling formula without being overly derivative.

Verdict: Quite solid for a February release in this Ridley Scott-produced picture about facing one's own fears when trapped in an inhospitable environment.


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