Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Everybody be cool. Look right at their eyes,” says Ottway (Liam Neeson) to the handful of survivors in the frozen Alaskan wilderness as a pack of fierce wolves close in on their campfire in the dramatic film, The Grey.
After surviving a horrific plane crash, Ottway decides to take charge and tries to lead the few remaining survivors away from the wreckage and into the woods, believing they will hopefully be further away from the wolves’ den, wherever that might be, and provide better shelter from any further attacks from the mangy, angry beasts who, according to Ottway, view them as a threat to the pack. Struggling to fight the unbearable, freezing cold, and to get along among themselves, the group heads out slowly, moving toward the far off woods. It’s not long before the wolves begin yet another attack on the stranded oil-rig workers, and the race to see who will make it alive to the woods is on. With no food, almost no water, and more winter storms heading their way, the weary, wounded men fight the elements, wolves, and themselves trying to make it back to civilization before time or their strength runs out.
Intense and at times gruesome, The Grey is a gripping survival thriller that benefits from a powerful performance from Liam Neeson. His commanding presence as he struggles to get the rest of the survivors to follow and believe in him is the very heart and soul of the movie.
The first half of The Grey captures wonderfully the frozen wasteland where no man could hope to survive due to the brutal and unforgiving elements that Mother Nature provides. The pain and agony of the freezing cold is portrayed extremely well on film by the cast, and the cinematic Alaskan landscape is truly impressive. And the first visit from the wolves is a mesmerizing and terrifying scene as all that can be made out in the darkness are glowing, angry animal eyes and snarling sounds which will have chills running down the backs of the audience.
Unfortunately, it’s the second part of the film where it becomes predictable, slow, and unrealistic that the movie loses its suspenseful edge. The pacing goes from being deliberately slow to methodically tedious, with too many conversations between the men fighting to stay warm, alert and alive. It just doesn’t ring true. Also, once the wolves come out into the daylight, they are no longer scary because it’s only too obvious how fake they are.
Still, because of the strong performances by Liam Neeson and the rest of the cast, including Dermot Mulroney, Joe Anderson, and Frank Grillo, The Grey is a film worth catching up on the big screen – but only at a bargain price.
The Grey hits theaters on January 27, 2012 and is rated R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.