The Grey Review (Colin’s Take)

The Grey
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Written by: Joe Carnahan & Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Starring: Liam Neeson, Durmont Mulroney, Frank Grillo

So it’s come to this: Liam Neeson, a pack of wolves, and a filmmaker with delusions of grandeur. The Grey might have passed as merely a second-rate survival flick had it laid off the pseudo-intellectual grandstanding and quickened the glacial pace. Unfortunately, its shepherd, Joe Carnahan, knows no such restraint. Bloated, juvenile, and absurd, the movie attempts to pass off a few cheap thrills as an ode to humanity. Oh, and according to Carnahan, it may return to theaters to make an Oscar run in October. Give me a break.

Neeson plays Ottway, a professional wolf hunter with a penchant for internally reciting corny poems written by his deceased daddy. “Once more into the fray/ Into the last good fight I’ll ever know/ To live and die on this day,” he rasps. Hey, how that’s poetry elective going? It might seem profound as a beer hall anthem to rally spirits in the fourth quarter, but it’s embarrassingly maudlin as the emotional crux of a movie. But enough about poetry — let’s talk about wolves.

A plane crash strands about half a dozen men in The Middle of Nowhere, Alaska. Hounded by a pack of edgy predators, the crew must literally fight for their survival. Never mind the practical how-tos like sustaining an expedition without potable water — they’ve got man-hungry wolves on their tail! The biggest, nastiest wolves special effects can conjure, though they’re mostly relegated to chasing everyone from one tired setpiece to the next.

Here’s the problem — with riveting wilderness docs like Touching the Void and Encounters at the End of the World streaming online, there’s no excuse to settle for such a stagey drama. But Werner Herzog is obviously beyond these morons; someone in The Grey paraphrases Grizzly Man as that movie about “The fag and the bears.” Are these guys from Alaska or a college fraternity?

I don’t demand that any character be likeable — but I ask that they be interesting. Not a one in Ottway’s ragtag group of “fugitives, drifters, and assholes” brings a single compelling trait to the table. Ottway wins the likability contest by default, even though his character might as well be the Wikipedia page on wolves for all he contributes to the conversation.

And it’s a shame we’re stuck with such shallow people, because their trek is often atmospheric, and the many perils they face might mean something if we actually cared about who they are. Writer/director Joe Carnahan can get by on keen visuals, but he writes like an emotionally stunted 19-year-old. His ceaselessly abrasive, hollow characters engage in dialogue with all the wisdom and wit of a whirring garbage disposal. Their pointless, profanity-laden bickering and eventual, manufactured camaraderie play stilted, not uplifting. Just die already.

The Grey is a mangy, flea-bitten excuse for an epic with an obnoxiously inflated self-image. Nowhere in its unwarranted 117 minutes does it possess a shred of the intellectuality it pompously aspires to, nor does it achieve a badass nirvana despite its consistent, cocksure projection of masculinity. Carnahan succeeds in scoring a few cheap thrills, but he ought to leave the philosophizing to the artists. End rant. — Colin

For another take on The Grey, check out Shannon’s review.

SCORE: 1.5 stars



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  • Al

    Couldnt disagree more. Sorry.

  • Justice

    It just wasn’t a fulfilling, good movie. Instead of using the natural beauty of the surroundings, Carnahan insists on using washed out close ups and crappy CGI backdrops. Ok, so that’s a stylistic choice, maybe some people will like it. The wolves looked mostly like crap and had no real substance or danger to them a la the bear from The Edge.

    *spoilers*

    But how about nonsense like finding one harvested tree, just one, in an entire forest, then never coming back to that plot point again. The wolves somehow making it down the cliffside with ease, while apparently the group can’t bother to scout around to see if there is an easier way down. Falling into water and no ability to dry clothes. All this could be forgivable if, as Colin says, I cared one bit about any of the characters.

  • Big Hungry

    Colin: While I enjoyed reading your take on this flick. I think the movie was a very strong movie. I actually thought it used the characters well and they carried the needed weight for the story. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through and I loved how the movie ended. While it is not perfect, there is not much I would change if I directed the movie myself.

    I think this movie will become a movie I will watch several times.

  • anonymiss

    i support you

  • Wow. People seem to be really torn on this movie. Either loved it or hated it.

    I happen to agree with the reviewer. This thing is corny, shitty schlock. It has its moments but mostly the moments are garbage. Let’s go one by one around the campfire and talk about someone whom we love. The plot made very little sense and for the most part I just wanted it to move along.

    So much to hate so very little to love. Which is unfortunate.

  • dan day

    Blown away by this movie. I don’t understand the hate from some people. What, you hate a genre flick because it aspires to something more than Neeson punching wolves? Bullshit. I was left shaken at the end. It carries even more weight if you consider what happened to his real life wife, Natasha Richardson. You could see his pain in his monologue to God, Jesus or some higher power. “Fuck faith, EARN IT”! Indeed.

  • Colin

    Dan,

    There’s a difference between genre elevation and aspiration. You’re right, The Grey aspired to more, but fell flat on its face.

  • dan day

    And I really don’t think this movie aspired to be intellectual. It’s not TREE OF LIFE. So much wrong with this review. You seemed to be ready to hate this movie before you watched it, Colin. As you are with a lot of movies.

  • Stano

    I found this movie to be more about survival and what somone does when they may potentially die. I think the film did a great job with the cinematography and I thought the actors all did well. All the actors played their roles pefectly.

  • sarah

    This movie was awesome, and very intellectually written; it was about purgatory, and the characters were caught between the light and the darkness. The wolves being everywhere wasn’t a coincidence, it was a depiction of evil always ready to get you. The scenes of his wife were always in white…he wore a white coat until he crashed in the plane, then he wore grey.The film is full of tests of faith; read into it a bit people!

  • wazza

    This movie was total rubbish, I agree with you 100%. Wolves tracking men in the wilderness..been done before in that bear movie..one with the kids trapped in car..just as crappy!!!