Film Review: The Grey
● By Justin Buettner
After a plane crashes in the remote Alaskan wilderness a man leads the survivors on a race to safety while they are pursued by a relentless pack of wolves. The men battle blizzards, frigid weather, challenging terrain while nursing wounds from the plane crash -- The Grey is a movie about endurance in the face of impossible odds.
The Grey is not your typical action/survival story. The movie dwells on the meaning of death and resists the urge to brush it aside to move the movie forward. This interest to explore the act of dying really separates the movie from the pack. It helps that Liam Neeson headlines the movie too and there isn’t another actor with his type of range alive today. Neeson’s ability to put an intense level of emotion into his performance while at the same time doing hand-to-hand combat with a pack of wolves is something to behold. He somehow pulls off both without over acting or making the action seem cartoonish. In addition, Neeson can make silent quiet moments riveting by just a look -- he is truly one of the most diverse and talented actors working today.
Sacramento native Joe Carnahan both wrote and directed this movie. Carnahan is very good at keeping a steady pace to the film but is brave enough to slow down in places letting the emotion of the moment take over. The quiet moments in The Grey are the strength of the movie. That’s not to disparage the action, as the movie does have intense action scenes but the heart of the movie dwells in the philosophies of the characters as they pondered fate, life and death in the face of their struggle for life. Most survival movies hurry from one action to the next brushing off supporting character’s deaths in favor of plot movement. This movie made sure that did not happen.
What may have worked the least for me were the wolf pack. I admit the wolves did bring a heightened sense of tension and urgency however I thought their constant presence was unnecessary for this movie. The scene of one of the men drowning was far more impactful than the sudden mauling of the wolves. Sure it did not make me jump, but the way the drowning scene was executed will leave a deeper impact with me.
The sound design and music in this movie were top notch too. The music never overpowered the drama and the choice to let the howl of the wind or just the natural silence carry key scenes in the film were extremely effective.
The Grey is captivating visually and in tone, and was shot completely on location in the snow. Too few movies dare to capture the real bite of winter like this movie does. The movie delivers good thrills while layering the story with a deeper meaning, a rather big feat for a big budgeted Hollywood film. The Grey isn’t without its faults, and I believe the ending will leave mainstream audiences disappointed. I personally thought the ending was perfect for what the story’s purpose was, but I can see how an audience used to a traditional ending would be under whelmed. If you are a fan of survival action films though, The Grey will entertain you thoroughly.
Films like The Grey : Alive, K2, and Vertical Limit
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.