Film Review – The Grey

The Grey (MA)

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Not since the Antarctica-set The Thing (1982) has a barren, isolated and icy landscape been used effectively to send chills down an audience’s spine. Like that John Carpenter classic, itself a remake, The Grey manages to bury itself under your skin as some fierce critters pick off a group of men one by one. But instead of extra terrestrial beings, this time it is a pack of territorial and hungry wolves.

From the horrifyingly realistic plane crash that puts The Grey’s characters in their terrifying predicament to the ambiguous ending, prepare to make friends with the edge of your seat because you will spend a fair amount of time there.

A team of oil drillers, including depressed loner John Ottway (Liam Neeson), are left stranded in Alaska when their plane goes down in the middle of a blizzard. Once the survivors collect themselves,Ottway takes charge building fires, salvaging materials to keep them warm and safe until help arrives. His efforts are thwarted when a pack of wolves hone in on the vulnerable group.

Realising that staying at the crash site will be pointless after one of them is silently attacked during the night, the survivors begin trekking to nearby forest. Despite their odds against the elements and the native fauna, the men continue the fight to survive. But some are not as lucky as others.

This surprising, taut, stripped down, try-to-survive thriller manages to overcome its script problems to bring one of the most visceral cinema experiences so far this year. Excuse the occasional clichéd character (the one who acts tough and macho is tiresome) and the tried and true civilised-people-turn-animalistic theme and you will be in for a nail chomping good time.

Director Carnahan delivers the film like a blow to the guts, keeping that sense of fear and danger comfortably consistent with flashes of graphic violence but also long, drawn out moments of suspense. You can never tell when another attack will occur out of left field. It is almost unbearable. Your hands will alternate between clutching the arm rests and covering your eyes.

No-one seems to be complaining that Neeson has become the go-to guy for action/thrillers after the 59-year-old has demonstrated his screen presence and athleticism in recent efforts such as Taken, The A Team and Unknown. While they have been pop corn fodder, this is certainly one of his finer projects.

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