Add one part survival movie, a few exceptional action pieces that will have you holding your breath and literally worrying for the characters, a splash of horror, more pathos than you’d expect from a movie that is being released in January, and Liam Neeson fighting wolves. I probably could have just said “Liam Neeson fighting wolves” and quite a few of you would be ready to see this movie, but that would be doing The Grey a great disservice.
Hit the jump to find out if The Grey is simply an outlet for Liam Neeson to be bad ass and sound cool or if there is some substance beneath the surface.
Let me start by saying that The Grey is a good movie. That has been decided. This review will not be arguing if it’s a bad movie, but rather how it will be remembered in the long run. Is it just good or is there more to it?
The Grey starts off with Liam Neeson’s character, Ottway, sniping a wolf and attempting to commit suicide afterwards. The man has got some baggage. Then him and a rag-tag group of bearded people get on a plane and oh my god the plane is crashing!!!!!
The plane crash from The Grey is the best I have seen. Period. Once it ended the entire audience was literally gasping for breath. Bravo.
Prepare for snow. A lot of snow. Oh yeah, and wolves. A lot of wolves.
The survivors of the crash quickly band together and find they “are fucked“. With only seven survivors trapped in the middle of a frozen wasteland it doesn’t bode well for our heroes. But what’s this? The characters serve as more than simply just fodder for the wolves? There is pathos in this movie!! Hurrah!!
Oh… except for that guy who keeps watch the first night. He is just fodder for the wolves.
Ottway’s character quickly takes control of the situation, guiding a dying man to comfort and establishing a plan of action. Being brought on the flight to protect people from wolves, he is well prepared and informed. The wolves have a three-hundred mile territorial radius and a thirty mile kill radius from their den. Unfortunately, they have no idea where the den is and are unsure if they are moving closer to the den or farther away.
With only six of them left and wolves closing in, they decide their best bet is to head towards the trees for better security. Much to the chagrin of an angry naysayer who becomes Ottway’s foil the rest of the movie. On their way to the trees the “comedy relief” character is killed, setting the tone that there won’t be a wise cracking funny guy the rest of the movie. Surprisingly, the movie keeps a serious tone but finds more clever ways of cracking jokes rather than relying on the aforementioned dead guy.
They reach the woods and they make spears with shotgun shells strapped to the end. Yes you read correctly.
Naysayer McAngry didn’t like that idea and he and Ottway get into it. Trust me, it’s a short fight. Liam Neeson don’t play around. Afterwards Naysayer McAngry apologizes and oh my god wolves start attacking him!!!
Luckily, the spears with shotgun shells strapped to them kill the attacking wolf. Ha! They told you they would work. They then eat the wolf. *insert tastes like chicken joke of your personal preference*
Soon after this the alpha wolf shows up and establishes that he plans on killing them. One. By. One. The characters slowly give up one by one, falling to the wolves or the pitfalls of the Arctic wilderness, but never before establishing themselves as a unique character. This is where The Grey rises above many survival movies and in general all horror movies. With a vague back story given to Ottway, a rough menacing background for Naysayer McAngry, a character with a fear of heights that manifests itself when they have to climb off a mountain, and a generally good person who… well his demise is rather sad.
Naysayer McAngry has an actual name, John Diaz, as it is revealed later along with the fact that Liam Neeson’s character is named John Ottway. Sincerely, they are really both one character. Two sides of the same coin. The movie is aware of this and even hints at it when their names are both revealed to be John and Diaz says “Of course it is”. This is only interesting to those who care to see how the characters are arranged, as they are not literally the same character.
On top of a good character driven survival story all of the action pieces are a sight to behold. From the initial plane crash, the race to the woods, leaping off of a cliff side, being chased by wolves and swept into river rapids, and finally walking into the wolves den itself, The Grey delivers.
Now for the real reason many people are going to see this movie.
Unfortunately, if this is the scene from the previews you paid admission for, you will be left a little bit down, because they don’t show the actual fight with the alpha male and the make-shift wolverine claws. But honestly, I am glad they didn’t. This movie would have come off as a cash in on Liam Neeson fighting wolves, rather than the well executed survival movie that lights itself with a dark hope. Stay after the credits if you want to see the outcome of the Alpha vs Ottway fight. It’s nothing much, but makes you wonder.
All in all I give The Grey an 8.5 for being an example of how a survival movie released in January doesn’t have to suck. With great action, characters, and story it should be a blast to see with anyone, except for the most faint of heart. It can get intense.
It looks like the director, Joe Carnahan has a good career ahead of him with Smoking Aces, the A-Team, and now The Grey under his belt. The Grey will be out at theatres on January 27th.