After a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, an oil drilling team tries to survive the harsh climatic conditions in The Grey. John Ottway, played by Liam Neeson, is a sharpshooter who is devastated by the loss of his wife and on the brink of suicide finds a new reason to survive as he instinctively becomes the group’s fearless leader. To add to the already precarious situation they face, a pack of wolves begins to stalk the group and kill the men one by one. Impending death opens the door for the men to discuss their fears, the meaning of life, the possibility of a God, and the afterlife.
Strong language is common throughout the film is a clue that the storyline is not Christian in origin. If you’re not typically fond of animal hunting, beware of this seemingly reminiscent rendition of Jaws, only wolves replace the ever threatening shark. There are some gruesome scenes not fit for the squeamish. However, this man versus nature and nature versus man story contains stronger Christian themes than any faith-based film I have seen in a long time.
The Grey touches on the importance of the life-to-death questions of existence every man and woman combats with at some point in their life. The topic of spiritual warfare, as found in 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV), is heavily present as the wolves, or spiritual demons, prey on the men’s lives seeking to destroy them in the darkness and invisible world around them. Tolerance, forgiveness, and unlikely friendships emerge after offensive confrontations among the men take place. The acknowledgement that death was right behind them brought reconciliation and unity among the men (Colossians 3:13). Survival, like the Christian walk, requires discipline, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.
One of the men in the group, John Diaz (Frank Grillo), expresses his convictions on the non-existence of a heaven or hell. As the men continue on their journey, Diaz experiences an apparent conversion as his fears dissipate and are replaced by an unexplainable inner peace which seemingly prepares him for death in his admiration of creation. Fear is not an option to those who must overcome the world around them but only God replaces our fears (2 Timothy 1:7). Redemption comes like a thief in the night to free us from fear and the sting of death (1 Corinthians 1:30).
The Grey is a reminder that the clock of life is ticking and death is waiting for all of us. We face our demons daily and question if God is there to guide and protect us. Yet when death stares us down, we cry out, like John Ottway, to our creator for evidence of his hand and mercies. As we struggle to survive the great battle of faith, it is in the surrendering of our fears to a God that is unseen through human eyes but known through the eternity he has placed in the heart of all men (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
John Ottway inspires us to reflect on the fact that, “we live and we die on the same day.” Life is not a fight we are left to fight alone. God gave us a leader, a savior, and a way to live eternally. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).
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