Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Opens locally Friday, January 27th, 2012 (check for show times)
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney
Co-written, Directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team)
The Grey will instantly remind you of the 1993 film, Alive, where a plane crashes and is lost in a cold and snowy barren wasteland, and we find the surviving crew struggling to survive. Instead of it being a rugby team in the Andes, The Grey uses an oil drilling team in the Alaskan wilderness. Characters in The Grey actually reference Alive, winking at the audience all the while, but this self-awareness isn’t enough to rescue The Grey from clichéd mediocrity in the first 90 minutes, and the presence of nearly-laughable, evil CG wolves.
You can’t help but feel for Liam Neeson, who is the film’s central character. He has lost his wife and the opening scenes find him on the brink of suicide. It’s hard not to think of Liam’s real-life tragedy, when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died in a tragic skiing accident. There are many parallels to his character that could be assumed, making his desperate performance all the more riveting.
But as movies like this go, we begin by seeing the victims pre-crash having a grand old time, save for our depressed hero. We get the necessary plane crash scene where they think it’s just turbulence. Post-crash, the survivors still don’t realize how bad of a situation they are in. Instead of following in lock-step with Alive, where time and the elements acted as the enemy, The Grey decides to alter things a bit by throwing in a pack of hungry wolves to boot.
Now I’m no wolf expert, but the wolves here serve the same function as snakes on a plane in Snakes on a Plane, anacondas in Anaconda, or alligators in Lake Placid. They simply exist to prey on one character after another, and move the other characters from scene to scene. We know that Liam Neeson will probably be the last one standing, and that Dermot Mulroney may last for a bit as well, since the two are the only recognizable actors. The others may as well be wearing red uniforms and following Captain Kirk on an Away Mission.
So while the occasional surprise wolf attack provides some thrills, there isn’t much depth to what’s occurring…until it’s way too late. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that the final 20 minutes defies certain expectations. In this final stretch, Neeson gives a much needed injection of emotion into a film too focused on in-your-face action and mopey flashbacks.
When you’re stranded in the Alaskan wilderness, the last thing you want to hear is “too little, too late.” But that’s what the final intelligent scenes of The Grey were for me…a promising rescue that arrived too late, since the movie had already left me in a state of frigid rigamortis.
[NOTE: Stay through the end credits for one last scene.]
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