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The Grey Review

Steven's Rating: 9/10 Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.4/10 (4 reviews total) Liam Neeson the gritty action hero. How unbelievable that at nearly 60 years old, an actor can redefine his career and become more bankable. Neeson has somehow re-channeled the seriousness he brought to dramatic roles into creating utterly convincing heroes in decent (at best) thrillers. But that’s not The Grey. The Grey earns marks far above decent, and Neeson’s performance makes it better. I know, the calendar clearly reads January, but that’s a matter of maximizing box-office potential in this case. Writer/director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team) has turned a new leaf in this harrowing wilderness survival thriller, a film as dedicated to exploring the true extent of the human will to live as much as shocking its audience with menacing wolf attacks. Neeson leads the pack in all manner of ways. Paid to protect oil workers from nature’s dangers (especially wolves), Neeson’s character Ottway turns out to be a group of drillers’ best chance for survival when their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness near a wolf den. He’s far from a boy scout, however, and he’s emotionally wounded by the fact that his wife has left him. Most of the early indicators in the film give you the sense that Neeson will do his usual solemn-faced hero routine that he executes to perfection, but the way the film unfolds (not in terms of plot, but in terms of the quality of the storytelling) asks him to go beyond that. He definitely responds. When looked at in its most fundamental form, The Grey could be considered just another film in which a group of imperiled people die one at a time en route to finding safety. Carnahan, however, slows down that pace so that we can absorb the extent of the danger and imagine ourselves in it. When death does occur, it’s visually striking, jaw-dropping and/or thought-provoking as compared to standard efforts at the genre that involve only jump-scare deaths or death by character stupidity. Only one character, Diaz (Frank Grillo) gets a stereotype as the stubborn self-centered jerk who disagrees with Ottway on purpose. Most movies would’ve killed him off before he got too annoying, but Carnahan and co-writer Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (who wrote the short story the film’s based on), have more interesting plans in store for him. It’s also not just a film about people being hunted by wolves in the wilderness. There’s no bloody man vs. wolf climactic battle, unlike what the trailers would have you believe, so film fans prone to take misleading marketing out on the film itself, be prepared. The Grey is much more of a suspenseful drama with high-adrenaline scenes lurking around every corner. As such, the visual style of The Grey asks for something different from Carnahan than the over-the-top high-flying nature of his previous two films, The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces. The overall tone is gritty and naturalistic, so snow-caked beards without the blistering frostbite makeup. The action is also more frenetic and gripping. Rather than shooting the action scenes in a traditional sense, he wants the viewer to feel as if they are experiencing them along with the characters. If a character falls from a tree top and hits 20 branches on the way down, that’s exactly what the camera’s doing. This maximizes the intensity of every major sequence. As for the wolves, they’re horrifying, yet never painted as the bad guys. They’re just part of nature. When it comes to issues of faith and the will to survive, that’s when The Grey really jumps up and above the bar for its genre. The story is told in such a way that when people die, it’s not for our entertainment, but to highlight the unpredictable nature of ... nature, and life and death. As Ottway wrestles with these same issues, its Neeson’s performance that makes it hit home. The Grey gives its audience the rare gift of genre-film entertainment with some serious food for thought and an ample dose of emotion. Carnahan’s choices on how to tell the story, along with an ending not typical of genre films, only make it all the stronger. Both he and Neeson display the true nature of their strengths. Hopefully we’ve seen only the beginning of Carnahan’s potential, and that nature is kind enough to Neeson to let him continue challenging the norm for the standard heroic performance. Rating: 9/10 Max thought: "In a way, The Grey is like the 2012 equivelent of Unstoppable: you saw the damn trailer so much that you didn't want to see the damn film—until you did and it turned out to be pretty damn good. Naturally, that is where the comparison ends, as "Grey" is less bombastic and more stark, vicious and cold in every sense of the word. The cinematography is to be commended for being able to do a lot with very little. The wolves (and the threat they present) are a touch theatrical but done well; the wall of eyes in the dark toward the start was a particularly nice touch. The violence is admittedly unsettling, but fits given the scenario and we get just enough of Ottoway and his band of misfits to be interested(ish) when they meet the inevitable. Liam Neeson continues to prove he can't do wrong and in the end, The Grey is a solid, somber entry into his already extensive resume. It isn't one to be truly remembered, but it is to be commended for beating expectations." Rating: 7/10 John thought: "Joe Carnahan has gotten a reputation for directing B-level action flicks (The A-Team, Smokin' Aces), but The Grey is a whole other animal. "Action" isn't exactly the word to describe it, though there is a big crash sequence and a few wolf-fighting scenes. It's actually more a mix of a man vs. nature tale and a meditative drama about life and death. It's like Hemingway meets Bergman but with Liam Neeson at his most badass. All kidding aside, however, The Grey is the best January film in some time. It also has a legitimate shot at my end-of-year top 10 list. Bizarre, I know, but it's just really damn good." Rating: 9/10 Simon thought: "Hugely mis-marketed as “Liam Neeson vs. The Wolves,” The Grey instead brings us a harrowing, often terrifying look at survival, and at the human will to survive—which is sometimes just not enough. Neeson delivers what is perhaps his most badass performance to date, but in a very different light: he is towering, commanding and intimidating even when snarling beasts drag people into the night. Here is a man who I would follow into the bowels of hell even if under that thick hide lays a broken, tragic individual. Early on in The Grey, Neeson’s character narrowly avoids taking his life, but as soon as he is plunged into a life or death situation, all he wants to do is make it home. This is not your average mainstream survival tale and has much more to say than any of director Joe Carnahan’s previous works. Some might be disappointed in the lack of “action,” but I think more will be impressed by the deeper, more satisfying themes explored in The Grey." Rating: 8.5/10


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