The Grey is easily the best movie of the year so far. It’s almost a shame it’s so early because it will be forgotten around Oscar time. It’s a powerful film that starts with the primal desire of survival and works around to something bigger.
The trailer kind of markets The Grey as men fighting wolves in the snow. (In an alternate universe, Steven Segal is probably starring in a direct-to-video version of this that is too awesome for words.) However, don’t be misled. The wolves are there. But there’s a lot more going on.
Liam Neeson plays John Ottway. His job is to kill wolves that threaten Alaskan oil workers, and in the film’s opening we find him on the verge of suicide. The sound of wolves in the night snap him out of it, and he boards his plane soon after.
After a nap and a plane crash, Ottway finds himself one of eight survivors stranded in the wilderness. The men must survive hungry wolves, freezing cold and each other in order to survive.
Despite how it sounds, The Grey isn’t a simple story of survival. It’s a look into the mind of a man who has everything stripped away, family, luxury, spirituality. What drives him through hopelessness?
It’s a clear metaphor for our own lives. We will all be cut down eventually. What will drive us when the wolves are circling? The Grey could have been a cheesy, by-the-numbers story of life and humanity. Though it does dip its toe in the pool of sentiment, the film snaps back quickly.
The performances are great, Neeson especially, though I think Frank Grillo’s turn by the stream is the best of the film.
I must confess. Part of me wanted to see Taken but with wolves. Yet I’m glad The Grey aspired to be much more. It asks the big questions but lets you fill in your own answers.