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'The Grey' Directed By Joe Carnahan

A movie directed by Joe Carnahan

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Attack of the Killer Wolves!

  • Jan 28, 2012
Star Rating:

The Grey is a deplorable example of exploitation, cruelty, and nihilism masquerading as philosophy. Here is a “survivalist” story in which the survivors are given the same reverence as horror movie victims, who appear to have depth and yet are merely awaiting their turn to die on cue. Not merely die, but become playthings for “nature,” which in this case is about as unnatural as it gets. It’s bad enough we have to endure a plane crash and several shots of bodies strewn throughout the wreckage; those that survived are left stranded in the frozen wilderness of an Alaskan forest, at which point they’re each stalked by a pack of wolves. In a more thoughtful movie, the wolves would be depicted as products of their own environment, hunting only when necessary. Here, they’re depicted as psychotic killing machines with borderline supernatural powers.
To be sure, we also see examples of hypothermia, oxygen deprivation, drowning, and bleeding to death. But the wolves are the real culprits. They attack the human characters with little to no warning. In many cases, they pop out in sudden bursts, like skeletons in one of those cheap carnival funhouses you ride with on dates. Their intention, we’re told, is not to eat but merely to kill. We know this not just because of how they tear their prey to shreds, but also because of numerous shots of them surrounding the characters. In one, several pairs of eyes appear out of the darkness and glow fiercely. In others, we see rows of them as they prowl low to the ground. Most of the time, we only hear them howl in horrifying unison. And to think director Joe Carnahan allowed just one shot of a full moon emerging from a veil of clouds. Too bad those three seconds were captured on a Queasy Cam.

The humans are led by a man named Ottway (Liam Neeson), a wolf hunter for a petroleum company. He’s established during opening sequences as deeply introspective in matters of death, in part because of memories of his dead wife, in part because of what he does for a living (for which he should be ashamed of himself). Mostly, though, it’s because of a letter he’s writing to no one, which is narrated for the benefit of the audience. This is followed shortly thereafter by a suicide attempt in which he puts the working end of his rifle in his mouth. I don’t remember if he chickens out or is stopped, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care. He and a group of laborers board a plane bound for Anchorage, only for the plane to crash dramatically. Out of all the survivors, he quickly appoints himself leader. They gather all the necessary supplies such as airplane fuel for making fires, but it seems he’s more interested in what waits for them in the wilderness.
He’s a wolf whisperer, you see. He knows how wolves think, feel, and behave. And so he spends much of the film warning the survivors about them with the tact of a counselor telling a ghost story to frightened young campers. The survivors try to keep their wits about them. Little do they know that they’re actually starring in a horror movie, and that in horror movies, there’s usually a pecking order applied to the victims. Typically, they’re stock characters with little to no depth. In this case, they’re developed on emotionally manipulative conventions. One has a young daughter he would have loved to see again. Most have women or relatives they left behind. And then, of course, there’s the one guy that questions the leader’s authority and spends most of the film angrily rubbing everyone the wrong way. Here’s one character that should be eaten by wolves just because it will finally shut him up.

They’re developed in other obvious ways, most notably by having discussions and debates on life, death, God, and the afterlife. This eventually leads to more personal admissions, including Ottway’s description of his Irish father, who was a hard drinker and a bit of a poet. What I don’t understand is why the filmmakers bothered to develop the characters at all, given the apparent pointlessness of their very being. The message, as I understand it, is that you shouldn’t love or laugh or even live, because in the end, it’s all going to be taken from you. Is there any particular reason why we should leave a movie feeling more hopeless than when we first entered? Why not consider the insane notion that life, though short, is beautiful and precious, and that, regardless of what does or does not exist spiritually, what we do while we’re alive truly does matter?
Alas, the filmmakers are much more interested in men being eaten by wolves. How pleasant. The film is based on the short story “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, and while I haven’t read it, I have a sneaking suspicion that The Grey is remarkably faithful to it, if only because Jeffers gets half of the screenplay credit. How sad that he seems to place no value on humanity or nature. I cannot recall the last time I left a movie feeling so depressed, so defeated, so angry that it had to make a point about how there is no point to be made. I presume it will be warmly received by the horror and action aficionados, as it regularly delivers the cheap thrills. Those of you looking for something deeper may want to consider bringing along a box of tissues, a dose of an antidepressant, and the phone numbers of several well-respected therapists. Trust me, you’re going to need them.


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February 15, 2012
Jeez. A little harsh there. I personally enjoyed the film and took it for what it was; an intense, brutal, relentless, slow-paced survival film. Neeson was excellent in his role, and Carnahan did a great job in directing every hardship; every unrelenting encounter with the forces of nature.
February 15, 2012
But to what end does Carnahan's great directing take him? He's telling a story that has no point, developing characters that will all end up dying, and depicting nature (wolves especially) as something it isn't. The only thing he has achieved is making the audience feel miserable. How is something like that worth watching?
February 18, 2012
I'd much rather be witness to that rare movie that intends for the audience to feel like shit when they leave than endure the countless amount of feel-good movies that infest cinemas worldwide. Just the fact that Carnahan was able to make a film so wholly depressing is impressive, in my opinion. Like I said, I enjoyed it; I was entertained. Dramatically, sure, it has it's issues; but I chose not to bitch about those things and just go along for the ride.
February 18, 2012
I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I personally cannot get into a film if the intention is to make the audience feel miserable, no matter how skillfully made it is.
January 31, 2012
I'm gonna wait to see this one when it hits Blockbuster. Really well-written review!
January 31, 2012
Thanks. Too bad no one seems to agree with me.
February 01, 2012
Yeah, I think I would agree with you on this one because I already agree with you and I've only seen the trailer. There are some that would say I shouldn't judge a whole movie on a trailer and to them, I ask, isn't that why we have trailers? Oh, well different strokes for different folks, right?
January 29, 2012
I'll read your review after I've seen it a little later...I intend to review this after and I don't want to be influenced right now.
January 30, 2012
I just saw this and I liked it. I think we are on opposite sides of the fence this time. Seems like we saw different things when we saw it. I think for the most part it was about "clinging on" despite the hopelessness of the situation. Nice review though we are on opposite sides.
January 30, 2012
I know that I'm alone in my opinion of this film, but for the life of me, I don't understand why. How can anyone appreciate a story so depressing and nihilistic? And why is no one realizing how badly the wolves are portrayed? We're no longer in the days of Jaws, when it was acceptable to depict animals as mindless killing machines.
January 30, 2012
Well...there you go, I like movies that are depressing and a little nihilistic LOL!. I guess I just wanted something different when it came to this type of movie and yeah, I agree on some of your points. Actually I liked the fact that they were in the wolves' territory so they became prey.As I remember, wolf packs have a hierarchy and they scout, they maim and weaken their prey, then that is when they attack. They are wild animals, and in a harsh environment they may behave as feral as portrayed here.
More 'The Grey' (2012 film) reviews
review by . January 30, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
We’ve all seen a good number of ‘survival’ films the past two decades. I mean, it seems to be the kind of film that studios feel that it is the kind of thing that would be easy to make a quick buck. I mean, films like those often involve a lot of wandering, walking and a lot of interaction between characters. It is kind of a man vs. the environment kind of deal and director Joe Carnahan seems poised to follow in the footsteps of such a film. Well, “The Grey” does have …
review by . January 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    A plane filled with passengers, headed "home" - wherever that may be - from Alaska. A crash; leaving six survivors total. A wasteland covered in snow and ice; the air riddled with only the cold. The surrounding areas belong to the wolves; and the lives of those unfortunate souls stuck there belong to nature. This situation is scary on its own, and the only thing scarier than this, in my opinion, is a lone man faced with similar struggles. But this is clearly …
review by . January 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Review: 'The Grey' 'Two Jews On Film' Feel The Power Of The Beasts' (Video)
            By Joan Alperin Schwartz      It takes a lot for a film to truly scare me. I mean, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of movies featuring, knife wielding masked maniacs, cannablistic nuclear families preying on hot teenage girls and demon possessed embroyos, I've become kind of blaise about the horror genre.      So many horror films are derative of one another. But I'm happy to say...this is definitely …
Quick Tip by . January 28, 2012
   If you have seen the trailers for this film and expected an actually movie showing Liam Neeson punching wolves in the face, prepare to be shocked.  This film IS NOT AN ACTION MOVIE, instead it is a bitter story of survival with many more scenes of tension and dialogue than action.  Please though, go see this film it is quite good and very intense.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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  • Opened January 27, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 57 min.
  • R-bloody images, violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language
  • Liam Neeson leads an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks when their plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Battling mortal injuries and merciless weather, the survivors have only a few days to escape the icy elements – and a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt – before their time runs out.
  • Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, James Badge Dale
  • Director: Joe Carnahan
  • Genres: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
  • Poster art for "The Grey."
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    Action, Drama, Horror Action Adventure, Survival, Two Jews On Film, Liam Neeson, Plane Crash, Wolves, Dermot Mulroney, The Grey Movie Review, Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo


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