The Grey: A Movie Review

by prash on 24 Jan 2012

Poster of The Grey

The Grey

“Once more into the fray,
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live and die on this day,
Live and die on this day.”

-Poem written by the protagonist’s father that becomes his inspiration to keep striving against all odds.

My 11th Grade English Literature course included a short story by Jack London titled “To Build A Fire” which I devoured pretty much the same day I got the textbook.  That night was the first time I dreamed of walking by myself in a dark, snowy landscape with little hope of survival, so authentic was the description and so powerful was the narrative.

Tonight, after watching The Grey, my dreams are unlikely to be much different. And oh, they might include a pack of hungry wolves chasing after me, for good measure!

Set in the cold and dreary reaches of Alaska, The Grey chronicles the efforts of seven plane-crash surviving oil-riggers who must now outlast the unforgiving weather as well as a pack of blood-thirsty wolves.

From the outset, director Joe Carnahan (who previously teamed up with Liam Neeson on The A Team) creates the sense of hopelessness that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Within the first few moments after the plane crashes, the seven survivors realize that right here in the middle of the bitterly cold Alaskan nowhere, there is little room for error and every cause for panic as survival against the elements becomes their highest priority. That is, until they realize that they may have just landed smack-dab in the middle of wolf-territory, the angry members of which are hell-bent on reclaiming their land even if it means literally ripping the guts out of the human trespassers.

And so begins three epic battles:

Man vs Man as the individual personalities of the survivors, particularly Neeson’s Ottway and Frank Grillo’s Diaz, clash in making decisions like what to do with the bodies of the other passengers and what should be the plan of action moving forward. However, once they realize they are not alone in the wilderness, Neeson whose job it had been to hunt their predators, naturally assumes the role of Leader and after a few hated exchanges proves he is quite capable of defending that mantle.

Man vs Nature which goes without saying, given their surroundings. From lighting fires using the jet-fuel from the downed plane to protecting themselves against sudden snowstorms, Man is shown to be the utter insignificance that he is against the behemoth that is Nature. This is also where the cinematography of Masanobu Takayanagireally shines through as he captures the wide-angle views of the unforgiving, bleak terrain while at the same time not missing the close-range shots of the survivors’ attempts to conquer this brutal environment. Light snow falling on large swaths of trees, the flickering flames reflected in the eyes of the men and the blood-thirsty, saliva-dripping jaws of their hunters have all been eminently captured on film which brings us to the third battle…

Man vs Animal – the most gruesome of the lot. Right after their first strike, the wolves make one thing very clear – they are not hunting for food. They are hunting to kill. And they will not stop until every last human who invaded their territory is gone.  Oftentimes stepping back to regroup and then striking with little warning, the wolves prove to be as resourceful as their more-evolved prey. They are cunning, co-ordinated and blood-curdlingly vicious in their single-minded pursuit of the men.

It’s a fairly common theme in movies to have things suddenly happen when you least expect it and The Grey has its share of shake-you-out-of-your-seat thrills. But what’s also present is a theme of nothing happening when you most expect it, a good example of which is the ending which will likely disappoint as many viewers as it will completely satisfy . Even what might seem inevitable is often deftly delayed and then never delivered serving as a harsh reminder to the viewers that in the real world, in a world of negative 40s and 50s temperatures, in a world of rabid wolves asserting their territorial right, in a world of raw battles between man and nature, there is no room for miracles.

There is only room for doing your best and hoping it is enough. There is only room for building a fire and hoping it keeps you warm (and safe). There is only room for moving in one direction and hoping that is the way rescue lies.

There is only room for the unknown in life: The Grey.

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Thank You, Steve Jobs

by prash on 05 Oct 2011

Steve Jobs

People use different words to describe the life and legacy of Steve Jobs:
Entrepreneurial.
Innovative.
Inventive.
Creative.
Genius.

But there’s a word Steve Jobs himself  used several times to describe himself and the company he co-founded:

Intuitive.

In May 1998, in response to a question about how consumer research affected the development of the iMac, Steve Jobs said:

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Steve Jobs, 11 May 1998

In that one, subtle line lies the entire essence of Apple’s philosophy as envisioned by Steve Jobs: Don’t ask them what they want. Tell them what they want. Tell them in a way that is genuine and convincing.

In 2001 not many people knew they wanted a revolutionary, new music-player. In 2007 not many people knew that they needed “an iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator” all in one device. They did not know and they were not asked if they wanted one.

They were told they wanted one.

At the end of what has often been described as one of the best keynotes, the Macworld 2007 Keynote (when the iPhone was first unveiled), Jobs concluded with what he described as one of his favorite quotes – one from Canadian Ice Hockey Superstar, Wayne Gretzky:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be,
not where it has been.”

– Wayne Gretzky

As the news on TV showed images and scenes from the life and times of Steve Jobs, my son interrupts me. He wants my iPhone so he can play a game on it. As he nears me he is distracted by the pictures of the iPhone flashing on the TV followed by photos of Jobs.

“Who is that, daddy?”

“That is Steve Jobs. He made the iPhone.” (Simplifying, of course, but not that much.)

“Oh.”

And he was off with the phone.

Turning it on. Swiping. Gesturing. Flinging birds on pigs.

Intuitively.

I let him play for a few more minutes than usual.

For always skating to where the puck is going to be,

Thank You, Steve Jobs.

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Notes From A Real-Life Slumdog

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In “Slumdog Millionaire”, Jamal breaks out from Dharavi, travels on train-tops to the tune of M.I.A.’s “Paper Plane”, scams tourists at the Taj Mahal, enters “Kaun Banega Crorepati” and at the end of this dream run reunites with his childhood heart-throb, Latika. That’s great, except real life is nowhere close to that narration. Sudip Mazumdar, […]

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