The Grey * * * 1/2

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Director: Joe Carnahan.
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale, Ben Bray, Anne Openshaw.

As much as I was a big fan of the TV series in my childhood, I was never really drawn to the recent film version of “The A-Team” – which was the previous outing for director Joe Carnahan and star Liam Neeson. If truth be told, I wasn’t really drawn to this film either but for one reason or another I found myself giving it a chance. As it turns out, this wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.

On a return flight home, a group of oil drillers find their plane having problems mid-air. It crash lands, leaving a small number of survivors stuck in the Alaskan wilderness. The conditions they face are treacherous; it’s freezing and they have no food or shelter but their main concern is the pack of hungry wolves who are aware of their exposure and weaknesses and begin to pick them off one by one.

Neeson continues his emergence as an ageing action star and churns out a good performance here. He delivers his tough guy schtick with admirable ease, firing off some no-nonsense lines – “I’m going to start beating the shit out of you in the next five seconds” and is a convincing and commanding presence. He also shows a bit of heart and vulnerability despite the film being quite thin on characterisation. This is most apparent in the supporting characters who basically serve as no more than fodder for the big bad wolves. They introduce enough of a background to make you almost care but this would definitely have benefited from a bit more focus on the supporting roles. Maybe even throwing in a couple of familiar faces to make it less predictable and more able throw us off the scent as to who might be the next one for wolf meat. An almost unrecognisable Dermot Mulroney makes an appearance and an impressive performance from Frank Grillo aides Neeson’s plight in trying to shoulder a routine and formulaic script that’s been stretched from a short story into a two hour movie. There’s not enough material and it shows. Despite this, Carnahan and Neeson still manage to keep you watching. I found myself more involved in the second half of the film where it became more methodical and even existential in it’s approach but ultimately, this is an action/survival tale and despite attempts at something deeper and more meaningful, it remains what it is really; a thriller. Still, it’s a good thriller that benefits from a solid lead performance.

If you don’t expect too much from this, you might just find yourself having fun. It’s a film that, surprisingly, manages to have both a deliberate pace and a eye for action set-pieces. It’s not as purposeful as it would have you believe but it’s worthy on a suspense level.

Mark Walker

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11 Responses to “The Grey * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice review. I’ve had this one recommended to me several times now. I’ll make sure to rent it soon. Neeson is a fantastic actor and I am digging the new path his career has been taking as of late. As for The A-Team, it’s not a masterpiece but I’d still recommend it. It’s very fun.

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    • Cheers Fernando. Yeah, I didn’t expect to like this that much but it’s a decent film. Neeson is quite commanding in it. As for The A-Team, I really don’t know about that one. I may watch it when it shows on TV or something but I refuse to pay money.

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  2. I’ve got this one recently from Netflix, just waiting for the right mood to strike me. I’ve seen lots of positive press, so I’m pretty excited to see Liam Neeson kick some wolf ass.

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    • It’s pretty good Andy if you don’t expect big things. Surprisingly there very little actual wolf ass getting kicked though. It’s quite methodical in it’s approach but when the action happens it’s effective. I should warn you though, I thought the wolves were a bit fake looking.

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  3. Good review Mark. I wasn’t expecting the type of philosophical thriller that I got with this flick, but I’m glad I did because it made me look at Neeson’s acting skills a whole lot differently. The guy still has what it takes to be a dramatic powerhouse and can still kick ass. Great blend of what this can do with a good script.

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    • Cheers man. I really didn’t expect the delivery of this either. I honestly can’t say I’m Neeson’s biggest fan but on occasion he gives a good performance and this ranks as one of them.

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  4. “It’s not as purposeful as it would have you believe but it’s worthy on a suspense level.”

    I’m glad you liked the movie well enough, Mark… I think that the movie IS as purposeful as it comes off as though. In fact, I thought the drama/meditative aspects of it were its strengths, and that there werent many weak spots.

    I felt the big action set piece felt a little forced… aside from that I cant remember much about this movie I didnt really like

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    • The drama/meditative side to it was unexpected for me Fogs and I was very happy to see it. That was also my favourite aspect to this. However, when it was all over, it didn’t quite resonate the way I think it tried to. Not for me anyway. That being said though, it was still surprisingly a good movie. Cheers for stopping by man.

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  5. I got a little more mileage out of the supporting characters than you did, but I’m glad you liked the film. One of the other aspects that really got to me was the connection between Neeson’s character and his real life. IMO, this was a bit of a catharsis for him having to deal with his wife’s death, and while it might be a stretch to say the film itself deserves that recognition, that’s how I experienced it. I loved it, and I think the ending was handled very well.

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    • Hello there sir. Yeah man, you’ve just reminded me of a point I wanted to make in my comments. I remember feeling the same regarding Neeson’s wife and at one point it crossed my mind that this might have been difficult for him to play but when it came to writing, this thought escaped me. I’m with you on the ending also. I thought it ended very strongly. I struggle to think of how else it could have ended but it was strong all the same. Thanks for stopping by man.

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