The Grey

Directed By: Joe Carnahan

Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, and James Badge Dale

Attention everyone!  It's that time of year for a kick-ass Liam Neeson B-movie, and no actor in the world wanted to go toe-to-toe with the famed Irish actor this time around.  Liam Neeson has beaten the hell out of every human badass on camera and is now relegated to fighting wolves.  Writer/director Joe Carnahan took a stab at bringing a wolf pack together to challenge Neeson in The Grey. 

Ottway (Neeson) is a man who's done some bad things in his life, so he isolates himself with a bunch of roughnecks working at oil-rigs in the most remote parts of Alaska.  While on a flight to their next site, the plane crashes.  Ottway and his surviving colleagues are now stranded in the Alaskan wilderness.  Left to their own devices, the seven men who survived the crash must deal with the bitter cold, serious injuries, and a vicious pack of wolves.  Ottway steps up to the plate and leads this group through the wild.

I have to admit that I was really surprised by the quality performances and shrewd filmmaking in The Grey.  Joe Carnahan and Liam Neeson really put together a respectable film here.  This is a film that has elements of disaster movies, psychological thrillers, and horror flicks rolled into one gritty package.  It's an unexpectedly intelligent film.

With elements of so many genres, Carnahan offers many things throughout the film.  There's a serious dialogue throughout The Grey on the merits of having faith in a higher power.  When stranded out in the wild, some of these guys really question whether there's actually someone up in the sky looking out for them.  With the calamity they're all facing, they have good reason to do so.

There's also a deep examination of the psychological scars from a major trauma.  These guys survive a plane crash and see death in its most brutal form all around them.  There is nothing bright or hopeful about their situation, and they each react in a different way to this grim reality.  Under the extenuating circumstances, some of them go a little crazy.  Some of them laugh the situation off.  Others become belligerent fools.  One guy remains perfectly calm.

Finally, The Grey shows how people come together in horrific tragedies.  In everyday life, men may tear each other down and wage war against one another.  When the chips are down though, they stand and fight as one.  As Ottway and the other survivors cope with their grave circumstances, they must rely on one another simply to stay alive.  As such, they develop a strong bond.  A sense of camaraderie among the group steadily builds throughout the film.

For all the movie's intelligence though, The Grey can't escape the fact that it's a survival thriller, and the villains are wolves.  Because of this, there is some really crappy filmmaking in Carnahan's screenplay that can't be ignored.  To move the plot forward, some of the characters do and say really idiotic stuff.  Carnahan takes you from smart, laudable filmmaking to the C-movie nonsense that only passes in horror flicks.

With all this in mind, I'm of a mixed mindset on the Sobriety Test rating for The Grey.  It had a lot of really great moments, but there was some really bad filmmaking at times.  Given this, you may need a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir for this one.  The Grey gets a 0.06% rating.