Apparently The Grey saw a lot of walkouts due to the fact that the trailer misrepresented the film making it seem as though it was an action thriller in which Liam Neeson calls a wolf a ‘motherfucker’ and punches it in the face. Whether the misleading trailer or the impatience of some modern cinemagoers is to blame for these walkouts is debatable, but after seeing the film it becomes clear that the trailer is nothing like the actual finished product.
Thanks to PETA and other animal rights groups we are now aware that a fictional story has a fictional portrayal of wolves, next they’ll tell us sharks don’t hunt humans and that a flock of birds do not attack a whole town. Anyway moving on from my dreadful attempt at humour The Grey stars Liam Neeson as John Ottway whose job is to project oil drillers from a pack of vicious man-eating wolves (just like GCI wolves do in the real world). John does this job with the pain of losing his wife (via death or separation we are not sure) deep down inside him, because of this feeling of loss John plans to commit suicide but a howling wolf stops him. Upon completing the job the men fly home, but on the way the passengers meet a huge blizzard which brings the plane down leaving very few survivors. The surviving men must battle freezing temperatures and a pack of wolves that have a taste for human flesh.
The Grey is not the action thriller the trailers made it out to be, but an ambitious philosophical film about the acceptance of mortality, spirituality and the fragility of the human body in comparison to the vast and unforgiving forces of nature. The Grey is an admirable effort from director Joe Carnahan, whose previous effort was the lacklustre The A Team, as he moves from the mindless action of The A Team to a story about an interesting fight for survival in a remorseless environment. Many were alienated by the so called ‘pretentious philosophy’, but while it doesn’t work to its maximum potential it still gives room for thought as the film is not about wolves attacking humans, but a trek across freezing landscapes in which the wolves represent John’s inner demons in the wilderness of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Carnahan has an eye for visuals, his execution of the plane crash is intense and his cinematographer, Masanobu Takayanagi, captures the merciless, gigantic landscape in a similar fashion to Russell Boyd in Peter Weir’s film The Way Back. There are some incredible sights as we see the wasteland of snow stretching as far as the eye can see into the distance and the mountains loom ominously over white wilderness making the human’s lost in the chilly surroundings seem tiny in comparison. It becomes clear that the biggest threat is not the wolves but the environment the men have to cross, but the wolves certainly are a troubling issue. Carnahan makes effective use of sound to create tension, the snapping of branches and the howling of the wolves increase the feeling that the survivors are surrounded by wolves’ intent on protecting their den.
The film is at its best when the wolves are not on screen as the atmosphere is as chilling as the climate the men are trekking though, this is also the case because the GCI wolves are not entirely convincing, but the film isn’t about wolves. However there is one terrific and quite a scary scene in which several pairs of eye glow threateningly in the darkness and another highlight is the scene in which the men are traversing across a huge drop which had such vertigo inducing effects of which Hitchcock would of been proud, this one example of many good, but implausible scenes. Liam Neeson plays the role with a gruff voice, but his performance is an emotional one as Neeson can connect to the character he plays better than almost any actor can (for obvious and tragic reasons). Neeson is supported by a host of capable actors (consisting of Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo) of whom play a mostly interesting bunch as the wilderness poses questions about human courage, greed, spirituality and faith.
Carnahan’s slow pace gradually builds the tension when the wolves are off screen as we are aware of the danger they pose which results in The Grey being an impressive and gritty thriller mixed in with a dab of mostly interesting and thought provoking philosophy. It is contradictory of critics to complain about a thriller lacking depth and philosophy and then go about complaining about the fact that a film does have philosophical depth without admiring the effort in adding such depth. Despite the fact the philosophy isn’t quite 100% successful I admire the effort. The Grey is a good thriller that states no matter how hard we try to avoid it we are always walking towards own mortality.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh Haywire stars Gina Carano as a contracted agent employed by the US to rescue a journalist, all goes reasonably well as the journalist is returned. However on a mission to Dublin shortly afterwards it becomes obvious she has been double crossed. Mallory Kane (Carano) must fight to clear her name of any wrongdoing as almost the whole secret service is after her. The central story is one of revenge and should be rather, if told correctly, simple, yet somehow the film’s plot becomes overly convoluted with the numerous backstabbing and flashbacks. Gina Carano has the looks and the moves (she performed her own stunts) but plays the role completely stony faced as her performance lacks any emotional range (don’t beat me up, please). Furthermore a talented supporting cast consisting of Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender is utterly wasted in thankless supporting roles. The fight scenes are at first brutal, you can hear bones crunching and the viewer does occasionally wince in pain, but they become repetitive as the movie drags on despite the fact they are rather well filmed. Lacking in tension Haywire is enjoyable for half an hour before becoming a chore to watch.