While along with everything, this list has its detractors as well as those that want an addendum added to this list. However, this is generally agreed to as “The List.” All stories fall into this classification, and many stories combine any number of these elements.
“The Grey” is a story that combines all of them.
It is unique in that depending upon which element you follow one could find this movie anywhere from faith affirming, to down-right awful.
“The Grey” (2012 dir. Joe Carnahan) focuses on a small group of oil workers who are stranded in the great white north following a fantastically visceral airplane crash. Afterwards they soon learn that they are being hunted and systematically killed by a pack of resident wolves.
Serving as the de-facto leader of the group is Ottway (Liam Neeson). His authority comes not from his position held in the company, but from his knowledge and experience with wolves.
At one point, we witness Ottway screaming to the heavens for God to acknowledge his plight and to show himself to him. After giving God a fair chance to show himself, it becomes clear to Ottway that God is not going to show. He growls in a way that only Liam Neeson is capable of and says, “Fine I’ll do it myself!”
Retirement plans, stock options, and keys to the executive wash room be damned! I’d be following Ottway, too!
Ottway is a man’s man, a hard-drinking, wolf-killing badass. At one point he makes Wolverine claws out of minibar booze bottles and electrical tape!
However, this isn’t 1959 and John Wayne doesn’t star in this film.
In our introduction to the character, Carnahan shows that Ottway doesn’t care if he lives or dies, so therefore, neither do we.
Something remarkable happens then and we really do learn to care about these characters and root for their survival.
I found myself wondering about half-way through the movie whether or not this is a situation they can actually survive.
Part of Ottway’s turmoil comes from his lover, almost ethereal in her beauty. Her story is told to us through his dreams in moments of semi-consciousness. We mostly see her and Ottway sharing a bed and her telling him, “Don’t be afraid.”
The most emotional of moments come in silent moments of anguish over being separated from his lover. This was especially difficult to watch knowing Neeson’s own loss of his wife in a freak skiing accident.
Neeson is a good enough actor to have been capable of this kind of emotion long before the loss of his wife, yet he is a brave enough actor to drag that back up to show us genuine loss.
Furthermore, Ottway isn’t without compassion. Following the crash, and finding a mortally wounded passenger, Ottway takes the time out to bluntly tell him that he is going to die and then helps the man die with dignity, having the man cling to thoughts of his daughter.
Neeson has rarely been better.
Notice that Ottaway is the only character that I’ve mentioned thus far. This isn’t solely based off my bias for Liam Neeson.
The other characters serve as little else than something for Ottway to talk at, or for something for Ottway to kick the crap out of. They essentially serve the same purpose as Wilson from “Castaway.”
For that matter with a few more passes on the script this could have been reworked as a one man show for Neeson, like “Castaway” or “I am Legend.” Liam Neeson is a great enough actor for this to have worked.
From the little I’ve read about other peoples’ reactions to this, the main point of contention seems to come from the ending.
Like many movies lately, the ending leaves you with more questions than it does answers.
I’m not put off by this.
I saw it as an exercise in faith and it wisely allows you to come to your own conclusions about what happened.
In this information-drenched age, many movie goers seem to resent being made to think. They would rather be told what happened than have the burden placed upon them to decide for themselves.
Not even the after-credits scene will answer any of your questions. It only compounds those questions that the pre-credits ending left you with.
This is a movie that encourages you to think, and that is a sign of a good movie!