The Grey (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 115
minutes (although rated at over 2 hours, that must include credits).
For two of the
past three years, Liam Neeson has given filmgoers a wonderful present of
a terrific thriller to start the movie year, Taken in 2009, and
Unknown in 2011, both of which received my top rating. He's
trying again this year, but this time it’s a film with a message, which
lessens my enthusiasm.
tense Neeson thriller is a thought-provoking allegory about man's
relationship with nature in the guise of a battle to the death between
an Alaskan wolf pack and oil workers who survive a brilliantly filmed
plane crash. Director-writer (with Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, who wrote the short
story, Ghost Walker, upon which the film is based) Joe
Carnahan stacks the decks by making the victims of the plane crash, and
the combatants vs. the wolves, employees of an oil company working in
the Alaska wilderness, which is where the big controversy is about
drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which the
Democrats unrealistically virulently oppose. The idea is that these guys
are invading a pristine wilderness which the wolves are protecting.
To start the
allegory, Liam is an unhappy guy employed by the oil company to kill
wolves who threaten its employees in the Alaska wilderness. After the
plane crash, he's the guy who is being stalked by wolves.
often have to combat plot holes and things that are less than credible,
The Grey has more than you can shake a stick at. While the movie
is tense, there are just too many things that don't stack up to make
this as memorable as Taken and Unknown. I'm not giving any
spoilers here when I list some of the many things that bothered me,
although I would dearly love to comment on the ending.
course, is the plane crash. The way Carnahan presents the plane crash is
nothing short of spectacular. Told from the POV of the passengers, this
is probably exactly the way this type of crash would occur. Those scenes
are this movie at its best.
not credible, however, is that in such a horrific crash, where the plane
is almost totally destroyed, anyone would survive, much less seven
people. And that they could survive without so much as a scratch is
presents himself to his fellow survivors as an expert on survival. So,
even though they are threatened by a pack of wolves, he insists that
they leave the relative comfort and safety of the crash site, where the
remains of the plane provide shelter and protection against both the
environment and the wolves, he insists that they all traverse open
snowfields to get to the "trees." As if being in the forest is going to
protect them from the wolves? I think that most survival experts advise
staying with a crash so that rescuers might better be able to find them.
If they wander off, there's no way rescuers could have a clue as to
where they might have gone. Then, where's the common sense that being in
the woods provides safety from a pack of wolves? But if they stay with
the plane, the allegory fails.
Then they start
walking (who knows where?) and come to a canyon. They are on one side
and want to get to the other. It appears to be about 50 feet wide. How
to get to the other side? Simple, in this movie. They have one of them
run and jump. Instead of going straight down, which would happen if
nature controlled here, he miraculously appears on the other side so he
can tie a rope together for them to all shinny across the rope to get to
the other side. This isn't a Superman movie, so I can't imagine anybody
I was looking
forward to a film that made me feel the coldness of what they were going
through. One of the best films for capturing temperature was Body
Heat (1981), a terrific noir set in a small town in Florida during a
heat wave. In that film director Lawrence Kasdan and stars William Hurt
and Kathleen Turner made everyone in the audience sweat as they
portrayed the way the debilitating heat affected them. I was expecting
this film to capture the cold of being trapped outside in sub-zero
temperatures. But neither the director nor the actors made the biting
cold a part of the film. They didn't shiver, ice didn't form on their
faces or beards (oh, sometimes Neeson had snow on his face, but it
didn't seem to make him cold), there was no frostbite, there was hardly
ever any indication that they were even cold! (To give the other side,
my companion at the movie felt cold throughout).
seems to be from the Terrence Malick school of directing and loves to
zoom in on Neeson's face as he thinks…and thinks…and thinks. He does a
lot of thinking in this movie and we are with him every step of the way.
There's more, but what's the point? All in all,
although the film was tense and entertaining, it was a disappointment.
To paraphrase Marlon Brando, it coulda been better.
January 19, 2012