If you are on the fence with this one I highly recommend you stop reading this review and go see this movie in theaters. While I always do my best to avoid spoilers, I think knowing a lot about this film before seeing it could potentially lessen the experience. Please come back and read this review once you have seen THE GREY for yourself unless you don’t really give a crap about that kind of thing. That said, on with the review!
Every year there comes a movie that is not too high on my radar that ends up blowing me away. THE GREY is one of those movies for sure and I simply cannot recommend it enough. THE GREY is directed by Joe Carnahan (THE A-TEAM, NARC) starring the amazing Liam Neeson (BATMAN BEGINS) and tells the tale of a group of Alaskan oil riggers whose plane crashes in the middle of the snowy wilderness. Soon, the few who survive discover that they are in wolf territory and must survive the elements, the wolves, and each other. What ensues is a beautiful movie that is much deeper than you would expect, especially if you saw the high energy trailer that misguides audiences into thinking this is merely an action flick. THE GREY is a beautifully thought provoking movie that is often unsettling and gives me just about everything I look for in a great movie.
Let there be no mistake, Liam Neeson owns this movie and absolutely shines in his role as an Alaskan sniper who protects the oil riggers while they do their job (bad ass!). Neeson’s character is a tortured soul who is struggling with the loss of his wife. He is also the one who takes lead of the survivors as he struggles to find safety and/or rescue. This is a truly complex character that is not afraid to show fear, battles himself as much as his plight, and never hesitates to be a complete bad ass. My favorite type of character/hero is someone who has weaknesses, fears, is frail at times, and still manages to push forward when needed. It is no secret that I am a HUGE Liam Neeson fan and this is seriously one of the best performances I’ve seen him in to date. That says a lot considering that Neeson taught Batman everything he knew, was an all powerful Jedi, and even a god. Great performance by an amazingly talented actor.
Just because Neeson anchors this film does not mean that the supporting cast is lacking. Far from it. The supporting cast in THE GREY is fantastic and compliments Neeson’s awesome performance making this movie shine even brighter. The core supporting cast includes Dermot Mulroney (ZODIAC), Dallas Roberts (3:10 TO YUMA), Frank Grillo (WARRIOR), Joe Anderson (THE CRAZIES), Nonso Anozie (CONAN), and stuntman/stunt coordinator Ben Bray. Of these excellent actors, I would have to say that Mulroney and Roberts resonate the most and gave some noteworthy performances. Each supporting character is this film gets their moment to shine and each one is confronted with a situation that challenges their beliefs and motives creating some intense and thought provoking scenarios. There are a handful of truly powerful moments with these characters that redefines what an ensemble cast should look like.
From the moment this film began I felt as if I was in a trance. I was transported into this world where a bunch of rouges and convicts worked in a remote Alaskan oil drill site and coexisted in their own, often violent way. The film constantly reminded me of the tone of one of my favorite authors Cormac McCarthy who wrote great novels such as THE ROAD and BLOOD MERIDIAN. By all means, this is not your typical setting for a film and it was refreshing to get the change in scenery. After Neeson’s character is introduced, the rest of the core cast pile up in a plane on their way home and we are treated to a beautifully shot crash sequence that really cashes in on the whole “mixing beauty with violence” trend that is comparable to what audiences saw in last year’s DRIVE. The rest of the film displays the struggle to survive in the wilderness among strangers and some bloodthirsty wolves. Sure the plot is somewhat straightforward on paper, but it is the philosophical adventure that these characters embark on that makes this movie what it is. I refuse to say any more to avoid spoilers except for the fact that THE GREY is most definitely deeper than you would imagine.
The trailer makes this out to be an action heavy film. While there is a crap ton of action to be had, this is by no means a action flick. Sure the plane crash is amazing as I mentioned above, and there are a handful of insanely awesome sequences with the wolves, but they are not simply amazing because of the action alone. Every sequence in this film serves its purpose and adds to the whole. There is no mindless violence just for the sake of it. THE GREY is successful in building up its intensity and its action by utilizing the “less is more” approach. You are often scared or tense about what you do not see just as much as what you do see. I always say that the perfect formula or a horror movie is to not actually show the audience what they are afraid of, but to instead terrify the audiences by having them imagine what it is they are afraid of. This tactic really immerses me in a film and THE GREY masters the effect while also showing us some pretty terrifying things as well. Fear not, there are still plenty of kick ass scenes with wolves chewing the crap out of some man meat. Joking aside, this film serves a fantastic blend of action and suspense all while giving audiences an unexpectedly deep and mesmerizing experience.
THE GREY is easily going to make my Top 10 Movies of 2012 list. That says a lot since we are only one month into the year and there are a hell of a lot of movies coming out that I am eagerly awaiting. THE GREY simply has just about everything I look for in a great movie. This is a deep and engrossing film starring one of my favorite actors. I was blindsided by the amount of depth and I was admittedly not prepared for the emotional connection I ended up having with the characters. I can honestly say that I learned a lot about myself and my own morals while watching this film because I was demanded to put myself in the position of these characters. THE GREY is a mesmerizing and somber film that should not be missed by anyone willing to give it a chance. Highly Recommended.
Final Score: 10 out of 10