Advertised as another Liam Neeson action film, The Grey is something else entirely. It’s an emotional survival film about a man who’s slipped into the grey area of life and builds up enough courage to face his fears and defeat this life defining obstacle that’s thrown in front of him. Liam Neeson lets out a much more vulnerable side of him that I didn’t know still existed among all of his recent action films like Taken and Unknown. Director Joe Carnahan captures the cold and lifeless scenery of the wilderness with lots of extended shots of the snowy abyss. The Grey took me by surprise and I’m glad it did. Some might be disappointed with the misleading marketing, but if you’re looking for a powerful story about the human drive to live then look no further.
Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a hired sniper at an oil rig. His sole mission is to protect the workers from outside threats. He’s a loner, like most working on the frosty rig and he’s inches away from giving up. His wife left him and he’s running out of reasons to continue working his day job. On a routine plane ride home a mechanical error strikes, causing the plane to crash. Ottway, along with a few other men survive the ordeal, only to battle off the cold and the deadly wolves that lurk in the shadows.
The trailers paint The Grey to be another Liam Neeson action film, but this time instead of foreign enemies he’s taking on wolves with his bare hands. The Grey is not that film and while that might initially disappoint you, I can promise the product you’re left with is much better. The film captures the feeling of hopelessness and transcends it into the will to survive, not only just to remain living, but to live without fear of danger or death. To truly appreciate and value the life you’ve been given. It’s deep stuff that you wouldn’t expect from director Joe Carnahan or actor Liam Neeson, but it’s an inspirational film that will take most off guard.
Liam Neeson‘s Ottway starts out as the typical Neeson tough guy character, with a brawny attitude and a constant flow of unbelievably manly one-liners. But as the characters embark on a journey across the snowy desert, their faith gets tested and you get to see just how far they’re willing to go to survive.
The rest of the crew is nameless for the most part, but each man plays his role well, adding to the wholeness of the group. Frank Grillo and James Badge Dale are probably the biggest names of the bunch, but they don’t leave a lasting impression. Each man is given his own characteristics and as the film carries on they continue to expose a little more about themselves. Carnahan does a good job with this because most films often rely on the main actor to carry the film and while Neeson does stick out from the rest of them, they all have some weight. They’re not simply guys that get killed off to progress the story.
The Grey is an enduring film. It’s not the easiest thing to watch because of how realistic it ends up being. For the most part the film moves along, keeping things very tense and personal, but it does have a few very short moments that hold on a little too long. It’s not a perfect film from start to finish, but it’s an effective one. If I really had to pick it apart I’d also mention the spotty CGI on the wolves, but that’s a small complaint. Most of the time they look realistic enough to discharge terror, but there’s a few rough spots where they take away from the film.
The Grey packs one hell of a punch thanks to Liam Neeson‘s damaged performance as Ottway and Joe Carnahan‘s direction, that keeps building and building until the final moments. Everything works in the film, despite the numerous times where it could have gone off the rails and became another Neeson action flick. I’m glad that it didn’t and I appreciate it even more for ending on the note that it did.
The Grey – 8.5/10
PS: Make sure to stay for the entire credits. There’s something waiting for you at the end.