“The Grey” is a brutal story of emotion and courage


By Glenn Battishill

As a personal rule, any movie with a premise like “Liam Neeson fights wolves with his bare hands” instantly earns my sale. I went to the theater expecting wolf punches and manly one-liners. The movie I saw was not a popcorn movie: it was one of the most brutal movies I’ve ever seen.

“The Grey” follows Liam Neeson’s character, Ottway, who is finishing up his latest stint working as a professional wolf killer paid to protect the workers of an Artic petroleum company.

Ottway gets on a plane to head home for the bad season of Alaska when the plane crashes in a frozen tundra. The survivors quickly rally to fight Mother Nature and the cold but soon realize that the cold isn’t their biggest concern; it’s the wolves whose territory they just landed on.

Soon the wolves begin to thin the pack as the survivors look to Ottway for leadership and guidance.

For the sake of not spoiling anything past what the trailer shows, I’ll stop the plot description there.

Right of the bat, it’s clear that this is Liam Neeson’s show. Neeson conveys some serious emotion and does some serious acting, which keeps the audience believing what’s going on.

Neeson has been hit or miss lately with movies like “Clash of the Titans” and “Unknown” but this puts him back on top of my list of favorite actors. His powerful demeanor is the rock that the rest of the group stands on and it’s clear that he is the alpha male.

The supporting cast is excellent. Every character has unique personality and development.

I particularly enjoyed Dallas Robert’s character, Hendrick, and Dermot Mulroney’s character, Talget. Both of these characters are the most developed and both actors bring lots of emotion to the table.

Director and cowriter Joe Carnahan does an amazing job of keeping the audience on edge. Early wolf attacks show the audience how relentless and omnipresent the wolves are, leaving that threat constantly floating over the survivors and the audience.

Cinematographer, Masanobu Takayanagi, makes the movie feel sweeping and large, often times filling the screen with the desolation and loneliness that is Alaska.

However, the most well thought out part of the movie for me is the sound editing.

The movie is loud; when characters are in the wilderness there is so much noise, from wolf howls to the roar of the wind, the sound is just as relentless as the wolves. In contrast, the flashbacks characters have are completely silent, which makes the transition from flashback to real time jarring and abrupt.

Buried under the premise of man vs. man vs. nature is a much more thoughtful film. Issues of philosophy and faith are brought up; never in an awkward way.

When the movie ended, no one cheered, no one booed and no one talked. Everyone gathered their belongings and left silently. An hour later when I was talking to my dad on the phone, I was still thinking about the ending of the movie.

It’s not a perfect film but the emotional force of the movie pushes the thoughts of dodgy CGI wolves and poor character choices out of mind.

“The Grey” is grim, unrelenting and brutally real. Neeson says in many interviews that the weather in the film is 100% real and there is very little CGI; I believe it.

2012 is shaping up to be an amazing year in movies and “The Grey” is one hell of a way to start.