FILM: The Grey Review (***1/2)

Posted: January 28, 2012 in Film, Reviews
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The Grey may have the blandest title in recent movie history, but the film itself is anything but dull or sapless. Led by Liam Neeson (the new king of better-than-expected January films), this survivalist tale between man and nature is captivating, thoughtful, and probably the most pleasant surprise to hit theaters in months.

The film follows an oil drilling team whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wild. With only seven survivors,  Ottway (Neeson) leads the group out of the wilderness while a pack of wolves hunt the humans one by one. It’s a little bit like Into the Wild meets Taken, except the European kidnappers are now ruthless dogs that don’t have a penchant for young women.

It’s not all man vs. animal fist fights as the trailer might have you believe, however. Much of what elevates The Grey beyond your run-of-the-mill thriller are the lofty goals by filmmaker Joe Carnahan. Using flashbacks to the survivors’ past ala Lost or The Tree of Life, The Grey acts as an existential exercise between fate and choice, God and man, man and animal. It doesn’t answer many of those questions, but it’s a nice twist for what would otherwise be the same old, tired and banal survivalist movie.

Thanks to cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, the film is also breathtakingly beautiful. He embraces the magnificent glory of Alaska’s rivers and mountains without dumbing down its naturally harsh essence. Tied in with Marc Streitenfeld’s haunting music, The Grey keeps you engrossed from the start…a hard feat for a movie that essentially has a bunch of guys running around in the snow. Fortunately, Carnahan makes it more than that and Neeson has his usual Irish charisma to pull off that vision.

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