The Grey is a mediocre thriller that revolves around an outlandish scenario for the same reason that films like Snakes on a Plane do - it's just entertainment. The plot of the film raises the important theme of the nature of the beast and whether men who lead ordinary lives would submit to ruthless means to survive in the wild, but the film fails to take such sensationalistic digressions to explore such a clichéd issue in a unique way.
In The Grey Liam Neeson stars as a troubled man working in an Alaskan site, he escapes a suicide attempt when he spots and kills a wolf approaching his camp. The following day, the plane carrying his crew crash lands in a remote ice field packed with wolves, and the men are left panicked, freeing and desperate with little hope to find their way back to civilization. The thrills come as much from how these men face the constant threat of the wolves, a hackneyed plot for sure, and actors Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo and Dallas Roberts are miscast in Neeson’s showcase of baddasssery. At first this is simply distracting but soon it begins to grate.
Director Joe Carnahan who has earlier made The A-Team and Narc does a passable job in the action-suspense department, though he tends to show off most of the sequences. Despite the psychological distrust that Neeson’s character faces that adds a thick layer to the plot, and the occasionally terrifying frozen scenery, The Grey is still not smart enough to prevent people from giggling about what they would do if they were chased through a jungle by CGI dogs. The other problem is that the film isn’t a story about characters’ relationships with one another as they struggle to salvage their lives, but more of grown-ups thrust in a teen slasher film set in the wild where each one is bumped off at regular intervals.
The film works best during the quiet moments like when the camera lingers in a single shot over one of the men who realizes that he hasn’t got the strength to live any longer. Neeson, although playing a troubled character for the hundredth time adds a big spark in his role perfectly complimenting the excellent hand-held style photography, but they're not enough to keep the movie afloat. And sadly the real stars of the film – the wolves are hardly given any screen time, and seem as though their shots were outtakes from a Discovery Channel special.
It’s easy to detect the theme of death that was done better in the mesmerizing Valhalla Rising but in The Grey the screenwriters treat this idea with their tongue in cheek by showing death as vapour rising from the mouth. An existential thriller with few thrills, The Grey no doubt has an interesting cinematic ruse but not one that would warrant a must watch.
(First published in MiD Day)