A group of Alaskan oil workers are on their way home to see their families. While airborne, the workers’ plane gets caught in a huge storm and crash lands in the middle of Alaska. Being miles away from civialization, Ottway (Liam Neeson) decides to take charge and lead the survivors on a path to what they hope will be civialization. It doesn’t take long before the temperature worsens and the small group of men learn that they will not only be fighting the brutal weather, but also a pack of wolves, who are not happy that these strangers have invaded their land.
The Grey was the first film that I saw in 2012 and it was the first film that I saw after seeing such great award nominated films such as We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Iron Lady, The Artist, and The Descendants. Going into The Grey, I expected to like the film and given the fact that I really do like Liam Neeson as an actor, I was really hoping for a solid flick. When walking out of the theater, I was not really happy with the film nor was I disappointed instead it was just a feeling of ah…that was alright. Curious if it was just me, I talked to several others at that same screening and surprisingly they felt similar to the way that I felt. It was very surprising to see this film open this past weekend to such praise because while it wasn’t a bad film at all, it was a very flawed film.
The biggest problem I had with the movie was the entire setup. The opening scene features a voice over of Liam Neeson giving a quick glimpse into his life and the background of these characters. The next scene is them on board the plane and of course, the nervous guy Flannery (Joe Anderson) jokes about the plane crashing and then just moments later the plane crashes. That is the build up and it takes about 10 minutes to set up the entire film.
What I guess I am trying to say is that I would have liked more depth and substance to the story. There needed to be more background on these characters so I could feel more compassionate towards them as the film progressed. There are hints of story here and there, but not enough for me to really feel connected to anyone. To me, the characters spent far too much time arguing with one another rather than developing them. Liam Neeson’s Ottway is the only character that gets a decent amount of back story (I still didn’t care as much as I should) and the rest of the characters get about 5 minutes of background outside them of them yelling at one another.
The other thing that didn’t work for me was the fast paced nature of the film AND the fact that lacked substance. I understand that this is a survival movie, but I remember watching 127 Hours and being on the edge of my seat the entire time. This film just seemed to be the same thing over and over again. Fighting off wolves, walking, and yelling were the three main scenes that kept happening throughout this film. It also did very little for me in terms of feeling the suspense. After the initial wolf sighting, it almost became predictable of where it was going to go. Did I feel bad for the characters that they were stuck out in the middle of Alaska? Somewhat, but definitely not as much as I should have. The real problem here is that this film was more about action rather than characters. It needed more of a balance of action and character development in order to be a really solid flick!
With all the negative elements set aside, the movie was still an enjoyable watch. It was a good survival film, but just not as good as I was hoping for. The acting was pretty solid especially Liam Neeson, who even though I am growing tired of him playing this tough guy persona, I still have to admit he is amazing at it. The rest of the cast is decent as well, but again the film doesnt really give them much to work with or do.
My favorite thing about the film was the cinematography. Director Joe Carnahan really captured the feeling of these men being stuck in the freezing cold and for that I will give the film a lot of credit. It really does help the lack of story that the film looked and felt authentic. These guys really did look cold and way Caranahn captured Alaska was beautiful and surreal. I think that element as well as some really unique shots are what really made this film somewhat enjoyable for me.
At the end of the day, The Grey was an ok flick, however, it lacked story and character development. While the acting was solid all around, the characters lacked depth and as a member of the audience I had a hard time connecting with them. The idea of this film is very simple and if you like movies about survival then you will probably enjoy this one. I personally loved how the film captured Alaska and how it made me feel as if I was there with the characters. I just wished that the movie made me feel something about these characters and had more substance behind it. Its not a bad flick, but definitely not one that I will be running out to see again any time soon. If you like Liam Neeson and an action film that is a notch above the rest, I would recommend you checking this out in the theaters. For everyone else, I would say give it a visit when it hits Blu Ray or DVD in a few months.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Grey is a 6 out of 10.