What’s worse than being in a plane crash? Why, surviving only to be devoured by wolves of course. If there’s one thing to take away from “The Grey,” it’s this: if you’re ever in a plane crash and abandoned in the snowy Alaskan tundra and being chased by flesh-craving mondo wolves, you better be traveling with Liam Neeson.
Because he’s got your back.
“The Grey” is a film that reminds us how fortunate we are to be sitting in a theater or at home on the couch and not suffering frostbite, hypoxia and being in the dastardly predicament of having giant wolf fangs ripping our innards inside out. The film is part invigorating adventure drama, part schlock horror. It’s a survival flick like "Alive" with Balto’s not-so-cute killer brothers.
Here's how it goes down. An oil drilling team crashes in the Alaskan wilderness and Liam Neeson’s wolf-hunter, Ottway, is the self-appointed man to get them to safety. Neeson is a colossal person in reality and his onscreen persona in this man-versus-nature flick is equally Herculean. Neeson’s energy and vigor drowns every frame with endurance and testosterone. Just as the wolves are presented as beastly hellhounds, Neeson is presented as their human rival. The Irish character actor is noteworthy as the alpha male who, as the film progresses, is stripped of his wit, strength and humanity.
The film attempts to be more than about crash survivors getting picked off by wolves, but misses the mark. There is a thin layer of camaraderie between the men, but they mostly sit around and wait for Neeson to do all the work. There is little exposition to make you care about the characters until it’s too late. We do learn snippets about each character near the end of the film. (Isn’t exposition supposed to be at the beginning?)
Without question “The Grey” is an intense ride. It is primarily filmed like a horror movie with close-up or medium shots, which consistently give the impression that a mega-wolf is just off camera ready to snack on some throat.
Director Joe Carnahan (“The A-Team”) maintains the suspense even when there’s a respite. Carnahan also keeps the atmosphere realistic, which adds to the horror. A plane crash, drowning and cliff jumping feel all too real. The wolves, on the other hand, sound more like the demon in “The Exorcist” than they do creatures of the wild.
It may be a frosty ride, but check out “The Grey” for uber-grizzly Liam Neeson and nail biting suspense.