Nature can be incredibly unforgiving and harsh – the Alaskan wilderness even more so. Liam Neeson stars as an experienced hunter in the thriller, The Grey, an old-fashioned man versus beast survival tale that has him going against the biting cold and a pack of merciless, blood-hungry wolves. It’s an unsettling tale, as bitter and beautiful as its icy landscapes. But hidden beneath its frosty exterior lies a deeper story of a man overcoming man’s most dangerous enemy; himself.
The Grey seems a suitable name for a film that has found itself in the hit or miss predicament – some viewers will love it, while others will hate it. Those who hate it would argue that it’s completely unrealistic, while those who love it would argue that it’s very realistic. And so the scales move up and down with various opinions about arguably one of the most topical films of 2011.
Neeson heads up the cast as Ottway, a hired marksman at an Alaskan oil refinery. His job is to protect the drillers from wolves, bears and other wild creatures. On his return flight home after a grueling shift, his plane hits a malicious storm, sending the plane crashing into the Alaskan wilderness. He becomes the drillers’ best chance for survival when a pack of wolves begin hunting the survivors down one by one. Suicidal and emotionally wounded after his wife left him, Ottway must find the courage and will to survive.
Ottway recites a poem midway through the film that sums up many of the themes at work in The Grey: “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”. The Grey is not an action movie, far from it. It’s embodies far more than that. It does not play out the way most movies of this sort do. When the high-adrenaline scenes stop, the men who face imminent danger discuss life, love, death, faith and spirituality. As the drillers fall one by one, it’s not simply for our entertainment, but to echo the unpredictability of nature – anyone can die at any given time.
Neeson’s performance is spot on and he alone carries the weight of the film throughout. Frank Grillo’s Diaz also deserves a mention.
Action lovers may be sorely disappointed. But those game for a suspense thriller will be greatly rewarded. The Grey’s abrupt cut-to-black ending might anger some viewers, but watch on for the post credits ending.