Scary Wolves 

Liam Neeson's 'The Grey' is the first great film of 2012

Liam Neeson battles nature and puts up a damn good fight in director Joe Carnahan's absorbing and devastating survival pic, The Grey.

The film tells the scary and surprisingly emotional tale of Alaskan oil drillers who find themselves stranded in the middle of frozen tundra after their plane crashes. There's scant chance of survival due to a lack of food, shelter and time before people freeze to death.

There's also the little matter of nasty, evil wolves trying to dismember them. The animals in The Grey have very little in common with White Fang. Actually, they make the werewolf from An American Werewolf in London look like an elderly pug.

Neeson, in a performance that regains him a lot of respect after trash like Taken and Unknown, plays Ottway, a depressed sharpshooter working as a wolf exterminator for an oil-drilling company. If a wolf is preparing to pounce on one of his co-workers, it's his job to pick it off with a rifle before teeth go into leg.

Ottway has seen better days, and is dealing with depression brought on by an undisclosed event involving his wife. He isn't in the best shape when he boards a plane with his co-workers, and his mood doesn't brighten when the plane goes down in a truly harrowing sequence.

And so starts a survival ordeal that makes Lord of the Flies look like summer camp. To prevent anarchy, Ottway becomes the de facto leader, or alpha, of the group, trying to share his knowledge of the animals with his fellow strugglers. They take his survival coaching with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Chief among his detractors is Diaz (played superbly by Frank Grillo), an ill-tempered ex-con who is chastised early on by Ottway for trying to steal stuff off of dead bodies from the crash. This gets their relationship off to a bad start, and the Diaz-Ottway showdown becomes one of the film's more-compelling human interactions. Grillo takes a role that starts out looking like your typical movie baddie, and winds up doing so very much more with it. He's going to get noticed for this turn.

Also in the group are Joe Anderson (Across the Universe) as the young guy who talks too much, and Dermot Mulroney (who keeps getting better with age) as the older, regular Joe of the group. As with Grillo, each actor takes his part and turns it into something memorable and moving. They make you care a lot for these guys, and when characters start dying off, it hits hard.

Carnahan, who worked with Neeson on the underwhelming The A-Team, finally delivers on the promise showed by 2002's Narc. The Grey is a lot deeper than I expected a wilderness-survival movie to be. There's a scene in the film in which Ottway talks a man through death, and this scene will stand as one of the more emotionally true and moving scenes of the year. Yes, I know it is only January.

Would timber wolves really track and systematically pick off a group of men as they do in this film? I don't know. I do know that the way Carnahan presents the whole ordeal is as much horror movie as it is survival yarn, and the film made me jump on more than one occasion. He does such a great job with the presentation that I really don't care how much of it was authentic and true-to-life.

The film comes off as some sort of man-vs.-nature nightmare that a dude might have after, say, encountering a timber wolf on a snowshoeing expedition, and then taking acid before going to sleep. It's a stellar, crazy, scary trip.

The wolves themselves are a mixture of practical and computer effects. Not every shot works, and a few have that "fake" look. The shots that do work are solid, and good enough to forgive those few moments when it's obvious you aren't looking at a real wolf.

As for the actual mauling scenes, I haven't been this distraught watching movie animals attack humans since Harold Perrineau was torn apart by a grizzly bear in The Edge. Remember that? That scene, with Perrineau screaming for mercy, actually made me cry like a baby. I cried in the theater, and I developed a general aversion to bears ... especially big, mean bears. I still like baby polar bears, though. They are mighty cute before they start trying to eat your face off.

With The Grey, we are looking at 2012's first great movie, and one that might've garnered Neeson and Grillo some 2011 Oscar consideration had it been delivered last month. I'm curious to see if their names come up 11 months from now.

See the movie—and stay through the credits.

The Grey
Rated R · 117 minutes · 2012
Official Site: thegreythemovie.com
Director: Joe Carnahan
Producer: Jules Daly, Joe Carnahan, Ridley Scott, Mickey Liddell, Jim Seibel, Bill Johnson, Tony Scott, Jennifer Moore, Spencer Silna and Adi Shankar
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, James Badge Dale, Anne Openshaw, Peter Girges, Jonathan Bitonti, James Bitonti, Ella Kosor and Jacob Blair


What others are saying

  • More by Bob Grimm

    • Bad Dog

      The Call of the Wild is fine for the kids, but adults won’t find much to love
      • Feb 27, 2020
    • Game Over

      Sonic the Hedgehog is pretty awful, but Jim Carrey almost saves the day. Almost.
      • Feb 20, 2020
    • Bumpy Flight

      Birds of Prey is kind of a mess, but it’s still more fun than Suicide Squad
      • Feb 13, 2020
    • More »


    Showing 1-1 of 1

    Add a comment

    Subscribe to this thread:
    Showing 1-1 of 1

    Add a comment

    Readers also liked…

    • Mission Accomplished

      Tom Cruise once again delivers a stunt-filled, pulse-pounding extravaganza like no other
      • Aug 2, 2018
    • Reel Indie

      All the best indie films to see this week
      • Jan 10, 2019

    The Range

    Things to Do, This Weekend, Feb. 29 - March 1

    Where to Rock, This Weekend, Feb. 29 - March 1

    More »

    Latest in Cinema Feature

    • Bad Dog

      The Call of the Wild is fine for the kids, but adults won’t find much to love
      • Feb 27, 2020
    • Reel Indie

      Movies in your local indie theaters.
      • Feb 27, 2020
    • More »

    Facebook Activity

    © 2020 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation