John Ottway is a solitary man who’s dealing with huge depression since losing a woman who’s very important to him. He’s run away from his undefined past to work security for at an oil-drilling site in Alaska. His security work involves the hunting down and killing of dangerous man-eating wolves that are a constant threat to the workers. His solitary existence leaves him with little compassion for the men he works with, but still he diligently does his job. He’s up for some leave time and joins some fellow employees on a flight to Anchorage when something happens with the plane he’s on and it crashes, Ottway and a handful of men survive the crash and now must fight for survival in the midst of the elements and the wolves.
The Grey is the latest movie from director Joe Carnahan and star Liam Neeson who last teamed together on the movie version of The A-Team. Prior to this, Carnahan also directed Smokin’ Aces and NARC. I had a decent time with both The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces though I wasn’t necessarily bowled over by either of them. NARC on the other hand was a different story, it was an absolutely terrific film and I’ve been hoping for Carnahan to hit me the same way since. The Grey certainly comes a lot closer though I do have a couple of issues with the movie.
Those issues involve the slow pacing of the film and little development for the film’s side characters. I absolutely get why the film is slowly paced- this is pretty much a impossible situation to survive and so it’s inevitability would be natural to be drawn out, but here it’s just drawn out a little too long and it feels it. Though Neeson’s Ottway is the character we’re essentially following in the film, we’re also given a handful of survivors that are slightly drawn with little to get behind. One of these characters near the end of the film engages in some existentialism that just, at least to me, comes out of nowhere. It seems forced and while I suppose it could be argued that this really could result out of this situation, it just doesn’t quite ring true and further drags the pace of the film.
To be fair though, Carnahan’s set pieces involving the wolves and the survival tactics are quite well done. Liam Neeson is excellent in his part and certainly brings the needed intensity to the role. I think it could’ve been improved with having a couple less side characters from the start who could’ve been a little more clearly defined as the film progresses. With that definition, then some of the existential moments would’ve made more sense and would’ve been more poignant. The Grey isn’t a bad film by any means, but it could’ve been tightened up a little more. Tightening it up would’ve made it’s message about survival in an impossible situation a lot more pronounced.
If you’re wanting to see a movie like this that gets it’s points right on target, I’d suggest the thriller Frozen about three friends who get trapped aboard a ski lift and left to the elements to try to survive. It’s an extremely tight film with three very well-drawn characters that truly do make you give a damn on whether they survive. And as a final note, if you do choose to see The Grey, then you should stay through the end credits for one last little scene. My friends and I could literally feel some dissatisfaction from the audience from the abruptness of the ending of the film and of course by the time the end credits rolled, they had all left the theatre. This one little scene could’ve gone a long way to alleviating a little of that had they either stayed through it, or better… if Carnahan had placed it right after the main credits had rolled.