Liam Neeson takes centre stage in this survival picture from director, Joe Carnahan (‘Narc’ & ‘The A-Team’). A small plane goes down over Alaska, and the seven survivors don’t have long to get their act together as they soon discover they’re being hunted by a vicious pack of wolves.
Neeson’s Ottway just happens to be a wolf-hunter back home and he soon takes charge, but a few members of the group don’t take too kindly to his leadership. That all changes, however, when they start getting picked off one by one and it isn't long before they realise they all have two things in common; 1) their survival instinct and 2) their admission that the outside world never really wanted them. Neeson opens the movie by referring to his colleagues as ‘ex-cons, fugitives, drifters, assholes . . . men unfit for mankind’, but when the night is closing in and a pack of wolves are on your tail, social labels are meaningless.
This sensitivity really strikes a chord after the macho foolishness of some of the earlier scenes, and it provides a real weight to the drama. In fact, the spotlight’s soon taken away from the action altogether and the focus is set firmly on this group of unlikely survivors.
But when the action does spring up, it’s as full-blooded as you’d hope. The wolves snap and snarl and, even when they come across as overly CGI, the resulting wounds look too raw and tender for that thought to linger too long in the mind. In fact, Carnahan does an excellent job of compensating for the limited budget and, even when they’re off-screen, he makes the wolves seem truly terrifying. Their faceless howls are particularly effective, and they stand as a chilling echo of The Seven Trumpets of Heaven.
Carnahan also plays with the striking Alaskan scenery. His camerawork seamlessly swings between aggression and delicacy, and he composes some truly breath-taking shots, especially when making use of the magical disappearance of swirling snow on white backgrounds. He drops us right in that forest, where there’s nothing but snow and ice . . . and, boy, is it cold!
‘The Grey’ is a film about man vs. nature . . . or, more specifically, men vs. nature. And, like so many things in life, there’s never a winner.