The Grey

Before we begin this one I want to take the time to acknowledge Nikki Richard. If you notice an increase in proper grammar and corrected spelling you can send your thanks over to Thinking Cinematic’s newest member, Ms. Richard. She is the editor for Thinking Cinematic and will be proofreading my, and hopefully soon Eric’s, works. I’m very happy to have her on board to help catch the numerous mistakes that always fall through my less than perfect proofreading.

February 4, 2012, I went and saw The Grey. Immediately after walking out of the theater I was on the phone with my dad exclaiming that I would be taking him to see this movie as soon as possible. The best advice I was given heading into this movie was to avoid the trailers. I know it might be impossible at this point, but if you’ve managed to slip by the trailers, keep away as long as you can.

I usually tend to try and talk about the good things first when it comes to talking about movies, but since there was so much I loved about The Grey, I’m going to go ahead and get the bad stuff out of the way first. I’m also putting the summary ahead of the review because I couldn’t help but discuss spoilers throughout so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you can just read that and revisit after you have seen the movie.

Summary: The Grey is 107 minutes of pure tension that’ll push, and pull on your heartstrings. The movie goes beyond the typical action surface of man versus wild and creates real emotion that even pushes you to think about your beliefs and philosophy. Although the dialogue can be a bit overbearing and off putting, the actors do a fine job with the lines they’re given, and create memorable characters that you can relate to. The movie is unforgiving when it comes to death and fear, all while stressing out the viewer. Depending on the type of viewer you are this can be seen as a good or bad thing. There’s a certain ambiguity that could be a potential problem for some, but if that’s something you can look past, then The Grey is definitely worth the time, and may even surprise its viewer. Also, don’t forget to stay passed the credits for an extra scene.

The weakest point in this movie by far is its dialogue. It isn’t necessarily horrible, but with everything else that is done right, it makes the dialogue seem unpolished. Even as I write this, it feels a bit nit picky, given that these men are introduced as people whom no longer ‘fit in society’. It makes sense that their dialogue is a bit heavy on the expletives, but it still takes some getting past. Singling out Liam Neeson for a second, I missed a couple of his lines due to his gruff voice and Irish accent. It was only one or two lines, but a lot of the lines are easy to miss if you’re not careful.

Really this is the only criticism I can think of. I’ve seen complaints about the realistic depiction of wolves, or certain plot holes with hypothermia, but I feel this movie falls under a reasonable amount of suspension of disbelief. The good definitely out weights those complaints.

From the get go, the movie comes out swinging with a voice over by Neeson.  The first five minutes of the film does a fantastic job of depicting a man who has passed the will to live. The journey takes us from that feeling of hopelessness to a grueling fight to live. I love that they set it up this way and brought us from one extreme to the other. It helps show the different spectrums of humanity when it comes to life and death.

Tension is the best way to describe this movie. The build up, the execution, all of it is done extremely well. Even the things you know are going to happen are drawn out perfectly enough to keep you tense and in fear.

There’s a scene in the airplane sequence that I specifically remember making a mental note on. Just before things go to hell, we are shown John (Neeson) lying in bed with his wife comfortably asleep. All is peaceful until in one swift motion the illusion of peace is ripped out from under you as John rises away from the bed and is back on the plane again. They did this shot again after the plane crashed and John is lying in the snow. There was something about the way the scenes flowed together from peace to reality that I just really latched on to.

The thing I love the most about this movie is that it isn’t just your typical action packed ‘man movie’. There’s a lot of heart that goes into this, and a lot more that you are presented with to think about. The movie also has a running symmetry between the wolves and the men. At the start of the movie, we are shown a group of men who seem somewhat detached from each other. As the movie progresses, we see the men evolve and band together as a single pack. They kept this mirroring between the actual wolf packs and the men throughout the movie. The wounded and the weak getting picked off, the omega fighting for the alpha spot, standing as one to fend off an enemy. It was a nice touch.

The movie is long, not in the drawn out sense, but in a way that is agonizing as you’re watching the events unfold. There are moments of down time within the movie that are filled with nothing but dread as you watch the men catching their breath or deciding where to go next. Even in moments of peace, they and the audience are never given the feeling of rest because of the danger that surrounds them. The movie does an excellent job of conveying this stress to the viewers.

Acting wise, you really do get a feel for these men and care about them. A particular scene that comes to mind is when they’re huddled around a campfire and discussing the things they’re fighting for. You can tell what makes them tick, what they stand for, and who they are. It’s this scene that the heart of the movie comes through.

This movie will pull at your heartstrings, over, and over again. At its core this movie is about the will to live in the face of inevitable danger. To see these men band together and struggle through the elements together is crazy. There’s a scene just after the plane crash where a man is lying down in pain while a few men tend to his wounds. He’s panicking and crying out that he doesn’t feel right. John (Neeson) looks him straight in the eyes, and bluntly tells him he’s going to die, as he eases him through his death, explaining that soon that it’ll crawl over him, and he’ll feel warm again. The fear in the man’s eyes, the silent tears of those watching helplessly, and the way John tells him to focus on the ones he loved is extremely powerful. The bluntness of it all set the tone well for the harsh environment that they are up against. This scene doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the numerous emotional scenes. There’s nothing gentle about the way they handle death in this movie. It’s all done quick, and ruthless like the enemy they’re running from.

There are very few films that I walk out of, immediately wanting to purchase the soundtrack. The Grey is one of them. In the beginning we are introduced to a man who is at an end. As he writes his final letter of goodbyes, the music pulls at our emotions as we watch the unraveling of a man’s will to live. Combine that with the heavy performance by Neeson and you find yourself fighting tears with a gnawing feeling of despair inside. As the movie continues, the familiar song plays at perfect moments on cue, and keeps the certain musical theme throughout. It’s done well, and adds to the overall strength of the movie.

There are certain films that leave you in an awed silence as the credits roll, or steal your attention for hours after the movie. The Grey falls under this category, and will definitely be a movie to watch more than once.

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2 responses to “The Grey

  1. Great review. Neeson is out-standing here and gives probably one of his best performances that we have seen from him in a very long time. The rest of the film also works because there’s not only this certain paranoia going on but even when the “action” comes, it’s tense, brutal, and surprising. Best film of the year so far even though that’s definitely not saying much.

    • It’s definitely a contender. Like you said though it’s not saying much since it’s still pretty early on in the year. Regardless The Grey is one hell of a movie and I can’t wait for it to come out on blu-ray/dvd!

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