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29 September 2012

The Grey

directed by Joe Carnahan

Mostly, I could care less about Joe Carnahan. Narc? Ehh. Smokin’ Aces? Ugh. The only reason I love Ticker so much is because it’s part of the amazing BMW’s The Hire film series. Oh yeah- The A-Team… This doesn’t mean that Joe Carnahan is not a capable director, it just means that his films generally aren’t the type of fare that blow my hair back. But with The Grey, Carnahan has found a way to scale back his indulgent style and allows the pared down tale of survival to shine. Shine isn’t exactly the right word, as most of the film exists in a cold, sinister dark, salted occasionally by a bleak, depressive gloom. This is the rough, ghostly void of the Alaskan wilderness, and thanks to Carnahan and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, I haven’t felt such a marrow chilling cold since John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s a survival film at its core, but the film finds a way to flesh out the shells of men attempting to leverage themselves from under the thumb of Mother Nature. The men in question (a wonderful Dallas Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, among them) are the few survivors of a plane crash left with little else than to clutch at whatever cosmic threads keep them going. Hunting the men is a pack of wolves determined to eradicate the foreign threat invading their territory, plain and simple. Liam Neeson delivers a great performance as Ottway, the reluctant, grim leader with a past that, despite Carnahan’s best efforts, seems disjointed and intrusive whenever it pokes its nose into the narrative. The Grey works best when the elements wear you down alongside the men, and like Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, you begin to doubt why you are even pulling for these men to survive from one bloody skirmish to the next. But it’s the elemental, primitive need to survive that keeps you going, keeps you doggedly, exhaustingly rooting for triumph, if simply not dying can be described as triumph. The film is a very masculine film (for better or worse), full of testosterone and aggression like The Thing or John Boorman’s Deliverance, but ultimately I didn’t see it as a negative. What makes this concept successful is novelty of the context, as it deals with a small group of men trapped in a kind of vacuum, and as a notable tragedy I will say there are a depressingly small amount of films comprised entirely of women that deal with similar subject matter (Neil Marshall’s The Descent is perhaps one of the finest examples around). At the risk of spoiling anything, I will say that though I find it very unnecessary (the film is stronger without it), there is a final post-credits scene. But The Grey has made me hopeful to see what’s next for Carnahan.

PS At the very least (and many other reviews have pointed out this tidbit), giving this film a shot will afford you the chance to see Liam Neeson punch a wolf in the face. So that’s pretty sweet…
I'll have you know, wolf, that I possess a very particular set of skills: wolf punching, wallet gathering, grumbling crossly, among others...

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