A chilling cross between Frank Marshall’s “Alive” and Lee Tamahori’s “The Edge,” “The Grey” is a taut, heart-pounding man versus wilderness movie with a lot of hungry wolves and a cruel bitch called nature.
As Ottway, the leader of a group of stranded plane crash survivors, Liam Neeson is once again ready to kick the tar out of whatever obstacles try to get in his way. This time around, he faces not terrorists or conspiracies, but the harsh arctic climate of the Alaskan wilderness, which comes off as murderous as the man-eating wolves lurking just beyond the trees.
The group of survivors is made up of oil workers, except for Ottway, who is a highly skilled huntsman hired to keep the oil drilling station clear of predators. After their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere, it becomes clear that hope of rescue is unlikely. The men trek forward through the snow, becoming increasingly vulnerable as the wolves close in with horrifying, inevitable results.
The movie then becomes a truly suspenseful waiting game where the dread is so palpable it is matched only by the rapid pounding of our hearts as we witness the crisis they must endure.. Never for a second do the filmmakers forget their characters are human beings. As their situation becomes more and more desperate, we cannot help but feel for them every step of the way.
“The Grey” is a refreshing change of pace for director Joe Carnahan, who’s previous work includes “The A-Team” and “Smokin’ Aces.” This time around, the director eases off the gas and allows a good story to unfold. He takes his time and wisely allows the creeping dread and suspense to build around the characters, each becoming more desperate as the movie progresses.
Although in his recent career, Neeson has been doing a lot of genre work, such as “Clash of the Titans” and “The A-Team,” many of his latest films involve identity and the struggle to recover something lost. “Chloe,” about an enigmatic husband’s struggle with fidelity is one. “Unknown,” about a severe case of mistaken identity is another. “The Grey” is another, and easily the best work the seasoned actor has done in years.
The supporting cast working along Neeson is very good, and includes Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney and Joe Anderson. The movie largely depends on the performances, and here the actors bring their A-game.
“The Grey” is refreshing because it does not strand a bunch of characters in the wilderness to be used as plot devices and wolf food. Carnahan and his co-writer Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, whose short story “Ghost Walker” serves as the basis for the movie, create authentic characters that have families, dreams, suspicions and fears. Their actions — and inactions — have consequences, and each of their pasts is regarded as they slowly march toward what must be certain doom.
Expect to be shaken by “The Grey,” what is already one of the best movies of 2012.