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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

suryanarayanan April 13, 2012 at 12:39


got ur blog from facebook;r u in usa? well written. may be u will lie my boo
earnings are donated to eye hospital; pl buy Murder in venice- very unusal story facts with fiction…thks
happy new year


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