3 1/2 Stars
There is a quiet nihilism in the unnerving psychological thriller The Grey. Seven surviving members of a plane crash must brave the harsh Arctic tundra and a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, in the hopes of rescue. On the surface this adventure tale is full of rugged looking actors going through an ordeal that is not uncommon to similar man vs. nature/ man vs. man fictional scenarios. The difference here is that The Grey pushes viewers to ponder its themes not only in the tense moments but hours and perhaps days after they have left the theater.
Liam Neeson is Ottway a professional marksman hired by an Alaskan drilling company to protect its exposed workers from the predatory animals roaming the icy landscape. After one of the most harrowing plane crash sequences ever committed to film, Ottway awakens to find himself one of a band of survivors who must work together to outlast the unforgiving weather and territorial beasts that are stalking the group’s every move. In terms of plotting, there is very little originality. The film’s power comes from the fully realized and captivating characters that behave as real people would if caught up in this extreme situation.
The Grey is one of the most relentlessly depressing movies in recent years, but it’s not unpleasant. That may sound like a backhanded compliment and it is. In honesty the entire experience left me feeling wrung-out and depressed; yet more importantly I was far more mentally stimulated that I had expected to be. The Grey represents a huge jump in maturity and craftsmanship from director/co-writer Joe Carnahan. A filmmaker whose previous output has felt like a frenzied attempt to emulate a certain style rather than develop an original artistic voice. For 2/3 of the running-time The Grey is nearly flawless, things get a bit drawn out in the last act with a scene in particular that lands on the overly talkative side and two shots that are held well past the point of explanation. Barring these minor quibbles, The Grey is a huge step in establishing Joe Carnahan as an emerging talent that is far more skilled than previously believed.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Stars: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney