February 1, 2012
By Steve Bryan
More philosophical than anything else, “The Grey” deals with issues of life and death, especially in matters of survival. Liam Neeson heads up a male-dominated cast that finds itself stranded in a deadly situation with little or no hope of rescue. Neeson plays Ottway, a security officer guarding the TransAlaska pipeline. More specifically, Ottway is constantly on the watch for wolves and other predators who can and will attack the workers as they perform their duties. He isn’t particularly happy with himself or his co-workers, though, which he recounts in a letter to his wife. During a flight back to civilization, the plane crashes, leaving only 7 survivors. Ottway takes on a leadership role to help the men survive until search crews locate them. Unfortunately, the plane lands close to a den of wolves that view the oil workers as a definite threat. Choosing life over death, the group makes the long and dangerous trek to civilization. Though it is an en- Photos courtesy of Open Road Films semble piece, Liam Neeson owns “The Grey” from start to finish. His character is like a closed book at first, revealing details about himself, his life and belief system at a glacial pace. Ottway’s outlook, it seems, has been shaped by his hard-drinking Irish father who, during his sober moments, was a fairly deep thinker.
Director Joe Carnahan starts the action with a plane crash worthy of the television series “Lost” and then unleashes the terror of giant wolves lurking in the dark. Ottway carefully explains how a den of wolves operates and instructs his co-workers to stand their ground or risk getting attacked for showing fear. Carnahan’s pacing is a bit slow for an action/adventure, which leads to long discussions between the men about what is truly important to them. These moments are often interrupted, though, by wolf attacks and obstacles that even experienced mountain climbers would find challenging. The biggest flaw in the screenplay by Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers is, however, the way the other men treat Ottway. In a life-or-death situation like this one, it makes sense to defer to the person with the most experience with survival techniques and wildlife. Instead, some survivors object to Neeson’s character taking on a strong leadership role. When all is said and done, “The Grey” is less of a story about man versus nature and more about the inner struggles we all have. Though the story is a bit flawed, Neeson’s performance makes this two-hour adventure worthwhile. “The Grey,” rated R for violent/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language, currently is playing in theaters.
Published on Feb 1, 2012