Are you ready to go into fray and experience the mental workout that is the new Liam Neeson film, The Grey? Read our review and decide for yourself after the jump.
The Grey follows Ottway (Liam Neeson), a hardened, yet incredibly sad Irish man who works on a remote oilfield, which is filled with men who have colourful pasts. Ottway is a guard of sorts, who is responsible for keeping out [and taking down] the wolves who call the area home. Ottway and a group of workers from the oilfield are on their way to Anchorage for a break when their plane crashes (in a terrifyingly realistic fashion) into the snowy Alaskan wilderness.
Unfortunately for the survivors of the plane crash, they have ended up right smack-bang in the middle of wolf territory – and the wolves are not very happy to see them there. With bodies strewn everywhere and a wolf-pack that wants them gone, the men have to act fast if they want to have any chance of surviving their ordeal. From here it is a story of man vs wild, man vs wolves, and man vs his own mind, in a survival thriller that will test both the surviving men and the audience.
Director Joe Carnahan has taken the standard survival film and pumped it wall-to-wall with nerve-wracking moments which will leave you gasping for breath and wondering what the heck will happen next. There are several moments in this film where you will most likely find yourself involuntarily jumping out of your seat. There will be adverting of eyes, clenching of teeth, and gripping of arm-wrests.
It is the combination of location, fantastic editing, powerful use of sound, and terrifying wolves which add together to make this such a knuckle-biting thriller. The snowy environment creates a very atmospheric and creepy setting for the film – one which the director has used to it’s full advantage. The sound of the howling wind and the snow whipping through the air is so deafening, that when there is no sound, it is the loudest silence you could imagine. Every twig that snaps in the distance sounds like a sonic boom.
The individual action set pieces are put together so well and have such fantastic flow to them. The plane crash in particular is extremely effective and absolutely gut-wrenching. The film lets us get to know some of the passengers, and gives us some idea of their personality, before it takes some of them away from us. It’s not a quick crash – and it’s not one that just goes boom and cuts to survivors on the ground. It shows you the initial turbulence, the disintegration, and the unimaginable horror that is an air-traveller’s worst nightmare. At the conclusion of that set-piece you may feel utterly exhausted and short of breath – just remember that at this stage, you haven’t even met the wolves yet.
Liam Neeson does a fantastic job as the tough-as-nuts natural born leader of the surviving men. He manages to be both vulnerable and unbelievably strong. The cast as a whole is fairly solid; and it was nice that the film-makers actually gave us a group of reasonably well-rounded characters to follow. Because they are not simply one-dimensional, we actually have a stake in what happens to all of the members of the group, and not only Neeson’s character.
Unfortunately one of the downsides of the film is the wooden dialogue between the men. Sure these men are supposed to be rough around the edges, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have “natural” conversations. There are fair too many stereotypes in their words and it felt quite forced at times.
Despite having mostly fantastic cinematography, the film re-uses a visual image and particular line of dialogue several times to indicate something was going to happen or change. In a film that provides so many genuinely thrilling moments, it is disappointing that this occurres so many times, as it gives a strong indication of what is going to happen next.
Overall The Grey is an exhilarating cinematic experience that will leave you perching on the edge of your seat. The terror in this film is real and you’ll feel it just as much as each and every one of the survivors do. Make sure you bring a coat – there is something about watching a thriller set in the snow that will leave you chilled more ways than one.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writer(s): Joe Carnahan (screenplay), Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (screenplay/short story)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Dermot Mulroney
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: February 16th 2012; New Zealand: May 17th, 2012