Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Grey (2012)

On the surface, one may look at what the The Grey has to offer, and quickly surmise that it is a movie simply about a bunch of dudes who are being hunted by wolves. But then you start watching it, and you realize that the movie is actually... a bunch of dudes being hunted by wolves. It's not necessarily a bad thing, though. It just means that you know exactly what you will be getting.

I should be fair though. The Grey certainly emits nothing but pure, unrivaled masculinity, -- I believe there may have been one actress in the entire production -- between the wolves, the snow, the guns, the violence and lest not forget the new tough guy of film, Liam Neeson. It's unquestionably a movie that most guys will have to repay their girlfriends for after they somehow convince them to see this movie with them.

But that being said, The Grey does have a surprisingly sentimental and even romantic side. Amidst the fighting, the blizzards and the explicit language, there are more subtle, touching scenes thrown in that offset the savagery.

Directed by Joe Carnahan, who also wrote the script along with Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, The Grey revolves around a group of oil workers in Alaska. Away from their families, the female gender, and pretty much civilization altogether, the men make a living in the frozen arctic. It becomes evident that most of the men have this job not for the love of oil drilling, but because they need a job. Liam Neeson's character, John Ottway, is the one who protects the men from the vicious wolves who prowl the area while they work. When he sees them, he shoots them.

But when traveling back home, their plane crashes, and the surviving men are left to fend for themselves in the frozen tundra with little food and warmth. Oh, and they're being hunted by vicious wolves. Ottway explains that wolves, while dangerous, are typically harmless -- except if you are near their den.

From that point on, the men know what they are facing, and The Grey essentially becomes a monster movie. At first, the wolves are shown casually, in less harmful circumstances. But then, they become the hunters. They lurk in the dark, and they are heard rather than seen. If The Grey accomplishes anything, it's the ability to make the viewer jump. Just when you think the threat has subsided, and you are lulled into a false sense of security, here come the wolves faster than you can blink an eye.

Liam Neeson in The Grey.
Though several men survive the crash, the number naturally dwindles down to a few, and once it hits a nice round number, we begin to learn a little bit more about the survivors (Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney and Dallas Roberts.) as they try to walk their way towards safety. We learn a little about their personalities, their bravery and their backgrounds. But Neeson dominates, and even at his ripe age of 59, he's still a bad son-of-a-you-know-what.

So I mentioned the sentimental scenes that mix in with the violent scenes, which mostly involve flashbacks involving Ottway with his former lover (Anne Openshaw), which Ottway uses as reassurance during the darkest of hours. The same could also be said about the script. Most of the time, it's explicit, immature and almost childish, but every now and then, a line or two will come along that carries profound meaning or even poetic eloquence. It's almost as if Carnahan intentionally made the majority of his script unimaginable, so that the few meaningful lines would stand out more. Intentional or not, it worked.

The Grey will undoubtedly please those who simply wish to see an action movie, but it will also satisfy those who prefer a little more thought in their films. Surprisingly, the movie carries a reoccurring motif, revolving mainly around death, and knowing and accepting when it is your time to go. Even the title of the film alludes to it, though I won't divulge how.

The cinematography is also pleasurable to see. Though it takes place in Alaska, it was actually shot in British Columbia, Canada, with plenty of snowy landscapes involving mountains, trees and rivers. Also, the wolves are CGI, and look pretty real for the most part, and downright vicious. Wolves may be vicious creatures to begin with, but this film undoubtedly embellishes that fact, portraying them as blood-thirsty monsters. But no one will really question that, except maybe PETA. After seeing the movie, though, I think most viewers will be pleased that when they bought a pet, they stuck with a dog or a cat.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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