The Scoop: 2011 R, directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, and Nonso Anozie
Tagline: Live or Die on This Day
Summary Capsule: A small group of men survive plane crash in snowy hell only to be stalked by a pack of wolves.
Eunice’s Rating: It’s nice to see the panther/wolf thing from The Neverending Story getting work these days.
Eunice’s Review: The Grey is in a family of movies I call “Watch horrible things happen to people out in a frozen middle of nowhere.” Admittedly a long name, but there you have it.
Liam Neeson is Ottway. Up in northern Alaska, he’s being paid by an oil company to kill wolves to protect the sites and workers where the oil rigs are at. At the beginning of the movie he narrates a letter he’s writing to his dead wife, and he’s in a very dark place.
He and about (I’d guess) fifty workers are flying back after putting in their stint. While everyone else is excited and talking, Ottway continues his letter and it’s apparent he’s a loner and not particularly liked by anyone. During the flight the men go to sleep and we can see that things are going bad real fast with the plane.
Let me insert here, that I received my copy of The Grey in the mail before taking a trip, but didn’t have time to watch it. Being the first movie I’ve watched since getting back I’m so glad that’s how it worked out (especially considering that on the first of my connections on the way back the pilot informed us that the electrical backup was down and they would be directing power from other places so “please don’t panic if the lights go out or you notice minor technical failures” AFTER WE WERE IN THE AIR!). Because that crash is the scariest thing in the movie. The immediate aftermath/survivor’s shock is the second scariest. Like *shivers*
Anyway, Ottway and seven other survivors figure that if they just stay with the wreckage, eventually the company will send help. Unfortunately the smell of blood and death draws out a pack of wolves. You see where this is going right? So after much fighting and bickering the men leave the plane and make for the forest looking for cover and trying to get out of the wolves’ territory. The rest of the movie is pretty much going down the list of every conceivable horrific way to die/watch someone die in snow you can think of.
While I always pull for the characters to survive in these movies, I was a little conflicted about them. They’re all outcasts, running from something, or desperate for the kind of money only such an extreme job can bring, but, with the exception of Ottway, the characters aren’t really defined. There’s a parallel made between Ottway and the Alpha wolf (totally has to be based on Gmork), and just like the other wolves are just the Other Wolves, the other dudes are the Other Dudes. Not to say that they don’t have any good scenes, but it’s pretty much one real scene per character, and that’s how you know who’s going to die next.
But what it lacks in characterization, it more than makes up for in visuals, ideas, and horrificness.
I’ve already mentioned the plane crash. I’d also highlight the first time they show the wolves’ eyes reflecting the firelight, or how even though you can’t see them in the dark, you can see the steam from them breathing and just how many of them must be out there. Every time Ottway sees his wife is touchingly cool. There’s a whole theme of dead loved ones guiding them through death that’s interesting. The scene where you get to see inside the wallets is surprisingly sad. I’ve never seen a movie so able to convey how incredibly cold it must be. And every death is more terrible than the last, which in this sort of movie you’re kinda going for.
There are some things that really bugged me. They’ve been working in the same place out in the middle of nowhere for however long, but nobody seems to actually know each other (like how you’d expect them to act if they’d crashed on the way to the job). I’m pretty sure no one is wearing gloves, and am totally sure no one wears a mask, but no one suffers from frostbite. Nobody gets snow blindness. Why is it so hard to light fuel? There are some weird as-the-script-dictates blood/injury physics going on. There were a couple of other problems I had, but they dip into the spoiler zone. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if I’d been more invested in the characters, but it bothered me.
I can’t really blame the actors. Liam Neeson is great of course. I promise you will find yourself playing the You Know, That Guy game as the other actors pull their weight as much as they can with their small scenes. I genuinely felt bad for all the characters and were pulling for them to make it (even Diaz after he stops being such a jerk).
The Grey is so not a feel good movie. It’s bleak. Beginning to end, there is not one shred of hope. And while I liked the movie, I was extremely frustrated by the ending. But if you like survival movies it is completely worth a watch.
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? There’s a very, very short scene after the credits.
- Based on Ian Mackenzie Jeffers’ short story “Ghost Walker”.
Ottway: It’s good. It’s good that it hurts.
Flannery: It’s good?
Ottway: It’s good, yeah.
Flannery: Oh, well, then I’m ******* fabulous.
Ottway: Who do you love? Let them take you.
Ottway: Maybe I’ll turn into a wolfman now.
Flannery: Wait… That ****’s not real, right? I mean you can’t.
Diaz: *******, what do you think? Really?!
Flannery: I don’t know, man, maybe like rabies or whatever. I didn’t think the ************ was gonna grow claws and teeth and ****!
Ottway’s Wife: Don’t be afraid.
Poem: 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…
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Edge