Liam Neeson (Taken, Unknown) snarls and howls through this film in pure Ulster kick ass style for which no man nor beast dare mess with. On the surface this movie is very much a man v wolf caper. However, deep down there is a grim yet meaty story of humanity, faith and hope. Plus there’s a scene where Neeson kicks a wolf’s ass! What more could you ask for?
John Ottway works in Alaska defending an oil drilling team against wild wolves. One night, holding a piece of paper he decides to shoot himself only to be deterred by the howling of a wolf. Who needs The Samaritans’? When the plane carrying them all home crashes in the wilderness, Ottway, haunted by flashbacks of his wife finds a reason to live and leads the men on a quest to survive the cold and escape the blood thirsty claws of man eating wolves.
Sounds a bit daft doesn’t it? Well of course it is. But that’s to be expected. Despite that there are on the whole intelligent moments with some thought provoking things to say on subjects which are often touched upon but in a more preachy sense.
We learn two things from early on in the movie about Ottaway. When one of the survivors is lying bleeding to death, Ottway tells him bluntly that he is going to die. He then comforts him and tells him death will just “slide over him.” We learn that Ottway is an experienced, straight talking yet empathetic character. We also learn why this movie is called The Grey. There is nothing much uplifting about the experience.
In terms of the usual survival thriller format, The Grey doesn’t really stray too far. The only thing that is slightly different is the deaths. Some of them are not expected. A man getting his foot caught between two boulders and simply drowning to death for example. Another who decides he doesn’t want to go on and plainly just sits it out. These are more realistic deaths, the type of silly little decisions or misfortunes that happen in our everyday lives. Whether that is human stubbornness or human clumsiness these are the types of scenarios you rarely see in a monster movie and in turn results in more bleak, vulnerable yet satisfying film.
The film is hugely fast paced, slowing down a few times for a matter of minutes when the characters are at their camp fires. Cue the usual humans turning on each other, Neeson’s angry Irish accent and them all opening up about their lives. The funniest scene comes when they all share laughter about a hooker one of them was shagging. They all stop laughing and remember the situation they are all. A split second later they all start laughing again. A nice feel good touch of directing from Carnahan. The poetic nature of the film is also one of its strongest points. A battered and bruised Neeson remembers a poem from his childhood which his dad used to recite to him.
Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day
The downsides are that while you feel sorry for characters screaming and getting ripped apart slowly by a wild wolf — you have to ask yourself are you putting yourself in that situation and squirming or do you actually feel for the characters? It was the former for me as not one character in the movie stood out to me apart from Ottway. The sound effect of the wolves go a bit OTT at times and the wolves eyes light up in the dark like a series of cats eyes. (No pun intended)
I liked the final scene though. It ended just the way it should have. Leaving it to your own imagination. In general, a terrifying movie with a genuinely more human Neeson at his best.
ALARMING WOLF FACT
Wolves have historically been associated with sexual predation. For example, Little Red Riding Hood, who wears a red cape that proclaims her sexual maturity, is seduced off the moral path by a wolf. The sex link endures in common clichÃ©s, such as describing a predatory man as “a wolf” or a sexy whistle as a “wolf whistle”.
So next time you wolf whistle at someone, if they run in the other direction you’ll know they’ve read this article!
Oh and I found this on Youtube. SPOILER ALERT… The shortest post credit sequence ever! And it doesn’t really explain much!