Thursday, 7 June 2012

'The Grey' (2011)


Once more into the fray. 
Into the last good fight I'll ever know. 
Live and die on this day.
Live and die on this day.

Take a bunch of men and dump them in a really cold place, miles away from civilisation and in wolf territory. That's basically all The Grey is. Which is why it's so good. A totally stripped-back plot allows room for a compelling, emotional, raw story of survival, that works on multiple levels.

A band of plane crash survivors must trek through Alaska, constantly hounded by a pack of killer wolves. So the wolves themselves may not be portrayed in the most accurate light, but The Grey is essentially a horror film for the most part so this doesn't distract from the story. And it does its job on that level - I jumped more than once!

There's just enough development given to secondary characters throughout the story and they quickly drop like flies. Liam Neeson is on perfect form, hammering home a performance that should (but won't!) earn him some awards recognition. He plays John Ottway, a man who seems to want to die but is forced to take charge and keep others alive. This is where the film really shines - in the layers. Balls-out wolf vs. man violence and death-defying jumps tick the fun-factor box and wolves keep the tension coming. But the details of the story - exploration of Ottway's father and wife - allow for discussion on faith (religious and personal) and the nature of survival.

It's hard to say just how good this film is without going into specific details which would ruin it completely. It's near-perfect through and through. Yes, you can kinda see where things are leading from the first 15 minutes, but that doesn't seem to matter. If anything, it makes the inevitable even more compelling.

It's raw, primal storytelling - no lengthy plot developments or character twists, but simple and emotional. Through a simple plot comes a complex story. And even if survival stories aren't really your thing, it's worth seeing for Neeson's performance alone.

I can't urge you to see this film enough - The Grey is definitely a strong contender for Film of the Year in my book. Highly recommended!

NB: there is a post-credits scene you should watch.

Read more of Neil's movie reviews.

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