Volume 2, Number 10 - February 06, 2012

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Kai Sacco

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Picture from the movie The Grey
Alpha Male: Liam Neeson goes head-to-head with a pack of ferocious wolves in “The Grey”. PHOTO COURTESY OF OPEN ROAD FILMS

The Grey Is Anything But Dull

By Kai Sacco

Your plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. The weather is below freezing. With no food,
weapons, or help in sight, you are now tasked with battling the elements and a pack of ravenous wolves with little more than your wits. Is this place hell? No. But for the characters in The Grey, this is as close as they’re going to get.

In the movie, the characters in question are members of an oil refinery team that boards a fateful flight in what must be one of the most intense plane rides in recent cinematic memory.

The seven survivors of the crash are led through the Alaskan wilderness by the company sharpshooter, John Ottway (Neeson), whose job entails keeping any looming predators at bay.

Electing himself the alpha male of the group, Ottway tells his peers that they would be safest amongst the tree line instead of out in the open. In one of the many great shots of the movie, we can see nothing more than the breath of wolves, pushing against the dark, Arctic air as they’re howling at the men sitting around a campfire. It’s in scenes like this where the mounting dread is exemplified.

During the campfires scenes, director and writer Joe Carnahan (Narc, The A-Team) fleshes out those characters beautifully by allowing each of them to give a little bit of their back story. He treats them as individuals rather than a group of men who may or may not make it to the next morning.

By the time some of them meet their end, we know enough about them in order for
their death to have meaning. The movie carries a message that as important as it is how you live, it’s equally important how you die.

The wilderness they’re stranded in serves as a metaphor for the place between life and death—the “grey” area.

In the beginning of the film, Ottway is on the verge of committing suicide until he hears a wolf’s howl from a distance. Something clicks. Was it a calling? The same thing
that saved his life is now threatening to end it. That’s one of the many nuances that Carnahan so intelligently intertwines into the story. The movie begins as a tale of survival and then surprisingly delves into existential territory.

The great cast, solid screenplay, and brutally realistic nature of the story right up to the
conversation-stirring ending, make it one of the first good movies of the new year. It doesn't fall victim to the many clichés of its genre predecessors and fairs well in the logic department in terms of how these men try to survive against the elements and the almost demonic wolves that trail them. Team Jacob and friends wouldn't stand a chance against the creatures of The Grey.

Make sure to sit through the credits to check out the scene that follows.

Rating: 4 stars

The Grey—Rated R—Directed by Joe Carnahan—Starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo—Written by Joe Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers—117 minutes

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