The Grey is a harrowing suspense-drama that features an absolutely incredible performance from Liam Neeson (perhaps his best since Schindler’s List) but because it’s a tough movie to get through, there’s really no let-up; it pushes you around from beginning to the end. That said, I’m not sure how many times I will revisit the movie but it is at least worth checking out at least once.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense
Universal | R – 118 min. – $29.98 | May 15, 2012
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Writer(s): Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (novel “Ghost Walker”); Joe Carnahan & Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (screenplay)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson
Theatrical Release Date: January 27, 2012
Features: Commentary, Deleted Scenes
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
“Once more into the fray…
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live and die on this day…
Live and die on this day…”
The latest in the man vs. nature subgenre, The Grey, based on the short story by Death Sentence screenwriter Ian Mackenzie Jeffers – is a harrowing tale that hits you in the gut from the very beginning and keeps doing so until the very end. This is not one of those movies you “enjoy” so much as an appreciation from both the cast but behind-the-camera as well.
The story is simple enough: We open at an oil refinery in remote part of Alaska (an oxymoron, I know), where we meet Ottway (LIAM NEESON) whose job at the plant is to protect the lives of the workers from invading wolves. Life at the refinery is lonely for Ottway who feels isolated and attempts to take his own life in despair, missing his wife. He decides not to go through with it and instead leaves with the group on a plane headed for Anchorage. Halfway through the trip, the plane crashes in one of the best, most intense and realistic sequences I’ve encountered in quite a while.
Performance-wise, it’s yet another movie that shows just how great of an actor Liam Neeson, a master of the craft who has the ability to overcome any script problems no matter the project (see Clash of the Titans or The Haunting). For The Grey, it’s probably the most physical and emotional performance from Neeson and as the driving force, the entire weight lies on his shoulders.
The supporting cast also does fine work, albeit with limited roles as Neeson gets the most screen time and thus, more character development. Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo both turn in solid performances, each for various reasons, with the latter able to overcome a character who isn’t exactly the most likeable chap. The others are fairly mundane and forgettable but fill in the parts well enough and are able to provide some humanity that makes you care, albeit only a smidge, about their situation and ultimate outcomes.
Director Joe Carnahan is certainly an interesting filmmaker. On the one hand he makes something like Narc, the underrated dark cop crime-thriller starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta, followed later by an insane ensemble action-er Smokin’ Aces and on the other he also directed 2010’s summer action box office turkey, The A-Team, which wasn’t bad but had much to be desired. I think The Grey is his best film since Narc, it’s more intrinsic compared with his more recent films and while certainly some of the realistic aspects are a stretch (in how the wolves convenient attack) but thanks to Neeson, the man vs. nature aspect of the story makes the journey worthwhile.
Overall, The Grey is a fine, well made film, but it is a tough one to get through. Liam Neeson gives an Academy Award-nomination worthy performance but I’m not sure how many times I would revisit it. The story can be a bit thin at times and a few of the supporting characters are mere food for CGI wolves, but at the same time in the man vs. nature genre, it’s very well done and at least worth one viewing.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
Audio Commentary – Co-Writer/Director Joe Carnahan & Editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellmann offer up an, well, interesting commentary track. The pair mainly does a lot of back slapping for the work as well as offer up bits of trivia on how certain scenes were set up/shot and discuss the ending. Speaking of which, stick around during the end credits where Carnahan lays into Executive Producer Bill Johnson in a bit of honesty.
Deleted Scenes (22:25) – There are six scenes that failed to make the cut, or were trimmed down, and although they’re nice to watch on their own, they don’t offer much in the context of the final movie.
Previews – Contraband, Cat Run, Being Flynn, Safe House, Silent House
VIDEO – 3.75/5
The Grey arrives on DVD presented in its original 2.40 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and for the most part looks good. The picture quality is fine though during some scenes you can see some artifacting, but even so, the detail level for the format seems to be good enough all things considered. The color array is decent enough though most of the film takes place in the wilderness so it’s mostly the white snow and browns of the trees and brush.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also decent with clear levels from the center channel while the front and rear speakers get a fine workout especially during the amazing and insane plane crash sequence. Even for a standard track, it’s some of the best I’ve come across and gives you the home theater experience.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, The Grey is a harrowing suspense-drama that features an absolutely incredible performance from Liam Neeson (perhaps his best since Schindler’s List) but because it’s a tough movie to get through, there’s really no let-up; it pushes you around from beginning to the end. That said, I’m not sure how many times I will revisit the movie but it is at least worth checking out at least once.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman