By Ian Christopher Beck ’12
8 out of 10
The Alaskan wilderness is a snowy, bleak scene to say the least.
Therefore, it takes a lot of imagination to craft a compelling storyline out of it, but writer/director Joe Carnahan, (“The A-Team”) pulls a rabbit out of his hat with “The Grey.”
“The Grey” is a conglomeration of Jack London, Robinson Crusoe and the 1997 thriller “The Edge.”
The film is set in the heart of the barren wilderness that London so vividly depicted in his famous novel “Call of the Wild.”
The plot follows a group of men fighting for survival after a plane crash leaves them stranded.
One of the more intriguing storylines to the film is the struggle against man-eating grey wolves that stalk the men as they seek safety. This calls to mind the man-against-beast struggle in “The Edge” that pitted Hopkins and co-star Alec Baldwin against a wild bear.
Carnahan fills the movie with vivid images of gore and violence and doesn’t try to hide any of the nasty details from the audience, much like director Sam Peckinpah in the 1971 thriller “Straw Dogs.”
Even more blunt than the imagery is the film’s star Liam Neeson with his character Ottway, who works as a security officer for a drilling team in the northern reaches of Alaska.
The movie begins with Ottway writing a letter to his wife who he has lost for an undisclosed reason. The loneliness and misery Ottway feels is clearly evident and it haunts him throughout the film.
In his narration, Ottway calls his co-workers unfit for society and as they board a plane heading back into Anchorage. The crude and vulgar characters prove him right.
Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashes in the midst of the barren wilderness and all but seven passengers die.
Alone in the snow ridden wasteland, the survivors soon discover their greatest threat might not be the cold but rather the vicious wolves that are hunting them.
As they journey south, the group begins to open up, revealing secrets of their past, warts and all. The characters are certainly flawed but become more and more likeable as their experiences in the wild soften them.
Neeson’s performance is exemplary as he breaks the mold of the typical leader of the band of survivors and provides layers of emotion and depth than most characters in this role don’t touch.
The film receives an eight because overall it’s a good but not great film.
The plotline is fairly straight-forward and the audience can guess what happens next almost every step of the way. But Carnahan peppers in a few twists and turns along the way to keep the storyline from lulling viewers to sleep.
The perfect blend of machismo action and thought-provoking emotion as well as the cunning back-and-forth between man and beast really bring the film to life.
However, the meat of this sandwich and the best reason to see the film is the masterful acting of Neeson and his costars.