When was the last time you went camping? Where did you go? Were you afraid of the wild animals around you? Have you ever spent the night in a blizzard? In Alaska? While a pack of wild wolves plots to rip you limb from limb because you’re on their turf? If you said yes, you might have been in The Grey.
The movie follows John Ottway, played ruggedly by Liam Neeson, and a group of men who have just survived their plane going down on an Alaskan mountain side. That’s pretty much the whole plot. The men traverse the tundra during an unrelenting blizzard in order to find some desperate hope of getting home. On their very first night the group is attacked by a local pack of wolves that will serve as the driving villainous force throughout their ordeal. Now, in defense of the wolves, they’re only doing what biology is telling them. These guys don’t belong here, and our home is like right over that ridge…so we’re going to bite the bejesus out of your throats. I can understand that, Liam Neeson can understand that, so please everyone else—understand that.
Liam Neeson delivers a strong, manly performance as John Ottway, the defacto leader of our survival group. It’s come to my attention that in recent years, Neeson has become this badass. He was fierce and amazing in Taken, he had a good turn in the blockbuster A-Team movie, and here again he’s testosterone incarnate. John Ottway is the kind of man we all hope we can be when the shit comes down to it. He knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, but at the same time is scared and flawed. Neeson plays him with a great hand here, but that should come as no surprise considering Neeson’s past. The rest of the group also handles very well, and while the actors did a great job bringing them to life, I feel the credit really falls to writers Joe Carnahan and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers. They penned a group of characters, not just a leading man and his unlucky followers. Each man has his own personality, his own fears, his own problems, his own reason for climbing over this mountain. Carnahan also took on directing duties and I have to say he did a fantastic job.
The film itself is bleak, yet thrilling. This, to me, is the meaning of horror. The Grey is a thriller, a drama, no doubt. But, as far as I’m concerned, this is a horror movie through and through. This movie is about survival, it’s about a dire situation with quite possibly no fortunate outcome. This movie is about your reason for living. Forget the slasher flicks, forget little girls being possessed by demons. Give me an unwinnable scenario, give me something trying to kill me because it needs to—not because it wants to, give me nature and reality. The pacing, the action, the acting, the direction, the writing—it’s all extremely well crafted. The way this movie is made will make you hate snow, hate Alaskan wilderness, hate wild animals (that last part is probably a bad thing…remember, they’re just trying to survive, too). The only problem with this kind of movie is that desperate hope I mentioned. You sit at the edge of your seat, hoping beyond hope, that Grizzly Adams’s cabin is over that next ridge. This, to me, is another meaning of horror: hope.
The Grey is stark, visceral, unforgiving. It’s a type of movie that comes along every so often and makes you reevaluate where you stand on certain things. It makes you look at yourself and question your resolve. Can you survive in the Alaskan wilderness, during a blizzard, while being hunted by a pack of wolves? I sure as hell can’t. But after watching this film, I feel like maybe I could. If I just follow John Ottway’s lead, I’ll get through anything.