The Grey * * * 1/2
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.