johnlink ranks THE GREY (2011)

Liam Neeson fighting to survive in the wilderness? I am in. I feel like he is a guy who would have a particular set of skills which would make him a good survivalist. There are some SPOILERS below, but I will be sure to mark them appropriately before they come up.


I watched THE GREY (2011) on 5.15.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is a much better film than I expected. I knew it was about a group of guys fighting the wilderness to stay alive. I assumed it would be more of a tense thriller than a character piece. Surprisingly, it turned out to be both. While this is your typical ‘horror’ storyline in the sense that there are a team of guys getting picked off one-by-one, the other end of the man vs. nature scenario turns out to not be just one villainous force, but rather the entirety of nature. Along the way the guys ask ‘why me?’ or ‘what does it mean?’ without getting particularly satisfying answers.

The villain is set up to be a pack of wolves. And, indeed, the wolves do provide a catalyst to get these guys to do things they normally wouldn’t do. But, ultimately, it is a much larger picture than that. They fight themselves, the elements, perception, and they rage at God. The group of seven proves to be their own little wolfpack, complete with an alpha who gets challenged by one of the subordinates. What separates the men from the wolves is their very humanity, and their ability to make conscious choices about their fate (or to choose not to, in some cases). There are a ton of layers to this film, and that is something I certainly did not expect when I started it.

MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH WARNING! So let’s talk about the end for a minute. We’ve seen what Ottway (Neeson) has gone through to get to where he is. We know how easy it would be to give up like some have, or to succumb silent like others. Instead, he follows the advice of his father’s poem. He flips through the wallets of his fallen friends and decides to fight for them, even if he knows the outcome. It is noble, and it makes a surprisingly tragic film palatable. Even if he believes there is nothing after death, as he says, at least he goes out in his own way. I really appreciated the end, even if it left me feeling unabashedly sad. END OF SPOILERS

The acting in this is well rounded. Neeson is superb. The only person I recognized from the rest of the team was Dermot Mulroney, and his Talget (a guy who is not afraid to talk about the laughter of his daughter amongst manly men) is my favorite character. It hurts when these guys hurt or die. That is the true success of the film.

The writing, on the other hand, is not perfect. While I like the layered dialogue and the conversations these guys go through, there are a lot of coincidental  plot points which serve the symbolism of the story rather than the realism of the story (Neeson ending up where he does at the end being the most glaring example). I can forgive the script for the most part because the actors took it on with full vigor and because the dialogue worked. But this, story wise, could have used one last brush to make us feel as though the story was unfolding naturally  rather than us feeling as though we were being led by the hand through a series of predetermined events. Perhaps, with all the talk of God in this thing, that was the point. But if so, this is sort of then just the best possible version of a FINAL DESTINATION movie rather than being a really solid survival story. I choose to think it was the latter.

Really loved this move. It’s one I know I will come back to.



This was a beautiful film to watch, the cinematography, with British Columbia standing in for Alaska, was breathtaking. When one character says it won’t ever get better than the view he has, the cinematography is a large part of the reason we believe him at a vital point in the film.



~ by johnlink00 on May 16, 2013.

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