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Liam Neeson's Grey Power
The Grey. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Out May 3.
What would you do to survive? The Grey tests mankind’s basic need to survive pitting a group of survivors in the most treacherous conditions – the Alaskan wilderness.
Stuck at the edge of the earth, Ottway (Liam Neeson) is surrounded by the toughest, meanest oil workers in an environment of clashing personalities. On their flight home, turbulent weather takes the plane down and the remaining survivors have to survive freezing cold temperatures, as well as each other, as they battle to stay alive from a pack of ravenous wolves.
I don’t want to say it, but when I first heard about this film it looked like Taken with wolves – Liam Neeson puts his extreme action skills to the test to defend the group, taking down a gang of wolves.
And, to a certain extent, that is what happens. On surface level, the film comes across like your average ‘man versus wild’ type action film, like 90s films Deep Blue Sea, Lake Placid, or even the classic Jaws – wild animals are portrayed as vicious, man-seeking beasts with nothing better to do than stalk humans.
However, The Grey is real and gritty. Wolves are extremely territorial, and when low on food to eat have been known to hunt humans. Enter a group of injured, weak plane-crash survivors. The systematic hunting and following of the group by hungry wolves makes sense, and intensifies the fear.
Director Joe Carnahan (The A Team) teams up with Liam Neeson, and while its is definitely driven by his character Ottway, in both star-power sense and through first person narrative, it is a whole package, with each survivor having his place. They might have stereotypical elements – the troublemakers, the man in constant panic, the injured – each man has his own certain charm.
Liam Neeson, despite always having this Irish brooding manner, does a great job as Ottway. A man tortured by his past, a loner but a survivor, he is level-headed and his sole mission is to get out of the wilderness alive. Dropping the occasional F-bomb, he blends with the hardened oil workers, yet there is something soft and compassionate about it as he has constant flashbacks of a mysterious woman. Who is she? What happened to him? His intriguing back-story is very much a part of the film as his journey to survive and paints him as a full and complex character.
Filmed in beautiful wash-out tones, the shots give a real feeling of emptiness. From stark-white to the blackest night, the grey inbetween the night and day is the world they are all inhabiting: purgatory. Neither dead in the crash or certain they will live the night, each man is trapped in his own purgatory just doing what they need to get by until either life or death prevails. Bleak, I know, but it is really a powerful film that is more about the power of survival, and the will to survive than it is an action film about fighting wolves.
The plane crash. A bit morbid, but it was one of the most realistic crash scenes I have ever witnessed. I was glued to my seat through the whole sequence that seemed to go on forever. Who would make it out alive? It was gripping and may have given me a complex about flying.
The clichés. Despite rising above my expectations of Liam Neeson versus the wolves, it still had trace elements of clichéd survival films i.e. “Go on without me” moments. Enough of those please, you are better than that.
Final curtain call?
A gripping ride of fear and survival, The Grey is an interesting look at what it means to be alive and what we will do to survive when placed in a world with no hope.
By Laura Weaser
7 April 2012