May 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 59°F


‘The Grey’: Survival spectacular seizes intrinsic spirit

Writer and director Joe Carnahan, whose past works include flashier shoot-em-ups such as “Smokin’ Aces” and “The A-Team” scores with the acton-intensive film “The Grey.” Based on the short story “Ghost Walker” by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, “The Grey” is a raw, wilderness epic of survival and brotherhood.
Seven men are all who remain after a plane crash in the Alaskan Tundra. Cut off from civilization and vulnerable to nature’s freezing wrath, the men must learn to survive and face their fears as they consistently battle packs of wolves within the dark shadows.
Fleeing from his past, Ottway (Liam Neeson) works security on an oil plant in Alaska, shooting wild wolves that try to attack the workers. With his tour ending, he hops on an ill-fated plane full of gruff, blue-collar men back to civilization. When the plane crashes, Ottway leads the few survivors in an ultimate man-against-nature war.
The story and writing behind “The Grey” heaves with thrill and suspense. A brutal plane crash, violent wolf attacks, desperate survival plans and dramatic bonds of camaraderie hold “The Grey” at a boiling tempo. The dialogue is natural and smooth, providing comic relief for the audience and the survivors desperate for respite from their ordeal.
The cast and their performances are spectacular. Carnahan allots his actors the time and liberty to express the weighted story of the characters without creating unbearable lulls in the overreaching narratives.
Neeson, with his 6-foot-4 frame and a dramatic presence, perfectly suits the role of Ottway, the wise but reluctant leader wrestling with his past and struggling to keep the band of angry, scared miners alive. He breaks the conventional, unpleasant mode of stock-perservering characters, revealing  a more compelling personality. Over a campfire, he confesses his own terror, and he comforts a dying man after the plane crash.
Frank Grillo shines as Diaz, the unexpected centerpiece of the group for most of the film. Grillo’s wonderful and natural performance justifies the transformation of his character. Diaz starts out as bitter, but evolves into a more admirable character in the group. His compelling metamorphosis throughout “The Grey” measures the growing bond among the humans as they fight against the elements for survival.
The cinematography of the film captures the nature fantastically. From the magnificent wooded mountains of Alaska to the eyes of hungry wolves peering out of the darkness, the combination of shots help balance the movie’s fusion of the beauty and horror of the wilderness.
The humans’ greatest antagonists, the wolves, stand as characters with gravity and substance in their own right. Though the movie relies on CGI for most of the shots, there are still plenty of visceral images, such as the alpha wolf staring defiantly at the survivors.
In its last few minutes, the film compels, empowers and awes with an amazing story and heart-felt performances. It’s a pulse-pounding action thriller and a beautiful exploration of life from beginning to
grizzly, glorious end.