Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Grey - Movie Review

You know that Liam Neeson has a specific set of skills, right?  He's a man of many talents, mentor to both Obi-Wan and Batman, can walk into a room full of thugs and destroy them in seconds and rumor has it that he has the biggest unit in Hollywood. The Grey adds wilderness survival and wolf killing to his ever expanding skill set.

I was actually kind of glad to this movie out of the way.  If I had to see the trailer for The Grey one more friggin time I was going to punch a wolf myself. Not that there are a lot of wolves around here, but I'd go find one and punch it. Hell, I watched a DVD the other day that had this as an unskippable trailer before the movie. I was getting the feeling that they were pushing this movie too hard, which is usually a bad sign.

There's not much to the story, and the trailer pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the setup.  Liam Neeson and a group of oil workers survive a plane crash.  As if things aren't bad enough, they are almost immediately attacked by a pack of wolves.  They know that if they don't get moving, they will all be dead within a day.  So Liam, his specific set of skills, and the survivors start heading south.  They hope that as they move south, they'll leave the wolves' territory and they'll get left alone.  Unfortunately, they are stalked by the wolves the entire time.

This is a good example of a movie where the trailer really gives you a different impression of what this movie actually is.  If you think this movie is going to be 'Liam Neeson punches wolves for two hours', you're going to be disappointed.  However, I'm glad that's not how the movie played out.  That's not to say though, that this movie, and all movies, wouldn't benefit from more wolf-punching.  This is why I maintain that Eric Bana's Hulk is better than Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk.  Bana's Hulk features mutant dog punching, which is awesome.  Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk features no dog or wolf punching, therefore it is an inferior film. End of discussion!

The Grey starts out like a horror/thriller movie, but turns into a survival film with deep philosophical elements.  It's about man versus the elements (and wolves).  The wolf attacks are sudden and brutal.  You'll jump a lot in the early part of this film.  If you watch this at home and have a good surround sound system, I think it will add to the experience even more.  The film is shot beautifully as well.  While all the snow and trees look great, you understand how deadly it is.

As they press on and you get the know the characters better, it becomes more of a philosophical film.  At what point to you give up?  What keeps these guys pressing on despite the odds?  You'll get to understand all of their motivations.  Eventually, you see these guys questioning their faith.

It's a longer movie, which kind of adds to how bleak and depressing their struggle is.  I was never bored though.  This might be a bit of a spoiler, but the famous scene from the trailer where he tapes bottles to his hands is actually the very last shot of the film.  The ending is kind of sudden and I can see people being disappointed by it, but I loved how it ended. Oh, and stay until the end of the credits.

While this is a Liam Neeson movie, the rest of the cast is great, too.  Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, and Dallas Roberts all stand out in their performances.  You start out not knowing anything about these guys, and in some cases not liking them at all, but by the end you feel for them.

This was written and directed by Joe Carnahan, who has movies like Smokin' Aces and The A-Team to his credit.  Based on those two movies, I wouldn't have expected that he was capable of a movie like The Grey.  It's a totally different kind of movie for him and I think it's easily his best work.  I hope he continues on this path.

I really loved The Grey.  It's not at all the movie I was expecting and I was peasantly surprised by it.  If you can get past that this isn't the action film the trailer shows, you're in for a well made movie about a group's struggle for survival.  I strongly recommend watching it and I'm looking forward to watching it again.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

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