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Monday, February 06, 2012  

M. Ovie Reviews: The Grey

I haven't read much about The Grey, but everything I have read is about how it's not what it looks like. What it looks like is an action movie about Liam Neeson beating up on wolves. What it actually turns out to be, at one point literally, is a nihilistic howl into an uncaring void. Tomato, tomahto.

Anyway, given that one goes into this movie expecting to see a tale of survival, it's a little surprising to see the hero on the verge of suicide in the opening sequence. Then it becomes a tale of survival. It's one thing to kill yourself, but getting killed is intolerable.

After the obligatory crash scene, which is shot impressionistically and entirely from inside the plane, and which makes me more certain than ever that it's best to have a row of seats to yourself whenever possible, Arctic petroleum worker Ottway (Neeson) takes charge of the hapless group of castaways who lived through the impact, because he's the most tall, calm, and deep-voiced. Alas, they appear to have landed in the territorial grounds of a pack of giant, murderous wolves able to surround and pick them off at will. So of course they'll have to deal with that urgent problem if they're to have any hope at all of being killed in the next couple of days by cold or starvation instead.

The irony is that before the crash, Ottway's job for the oil company was to shoot down any wolf that makes a run at the pipeline workers. Well, I hope it's irony, because otherwise the all-powerful wolf-pack found a way to haul Ottway's entire plane down out of the sky into their midst like he was flying on Oceanic 815 or something. Either way it's no wonder that Ottway, and the movie itself, are both obsessed with death.

Because the wolves aren't our heroes' only problem. They're not even always their most immediate problem. You want to root for these guys, to make it, but you can't see any way they're going to. Even if the wolves are defeated or decide to leave them alone, neither of which is happening, the cast is still injured and stranded in the frozen wilderness without food, guns, or any means of communication or transportation beyond their mouths and feet. So you're left rooting for…what to happen, exactly?

As it turns out, there's very little wolf-fighting in this movie. There is, however, a great deal of wolf-fleeing, which, while understandable, is an entirely different thing. Over the course of the movie, as the members of Ottway's party explore some of the many different ways to die in the Alaskan wilderness, there are art-shots and juicy character moments lying so thick on the snow-covered ground that eventually you realize that except in short, intense bursts, you aren't watching an action movie at all. So by the time you get to the part where the wolf-fighting is supposed to go, you've probably well and truly internalized the fact that this isn't that kind of movie. But by then it's too late. Even the final shot after the credits is pretty unsatisfying. And you leave having spent two hours having the futility of not only the struggle for survival, but existence itself. None of us is fighting for anything but the privilege of continuing to fight. Have fun making yourself dinner after that.

But I will say that when I came home and Phantom and Exie wanted to snuggle and purr, the killer wolves of The Grey really gave me a new appreciation for the mutually loving and respectful relationship I have with the animals in my house. Except Bucky the hamster, of course. He's still an asshole.

posted by M. Giant 7:08 AM 2 comments

2 Comments:

I'm sure they have nothing in common, but coldness and wolves, but your review put me in mind of one of my favourite bad movies, Frozen [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1323045/].

Oh the wolves.

By Blogger Ezekiel, at February 9, 2012 at 12:31 PM  

Hey, as soon as I read all the arty reviews on Rotten Tomatoes waxing lyrical about this Grey film, I thought about Frozen, too. An unsung masterpiece!

Thanks, M. Giant. You have just saved me from wasting $10 over here in Australia on Cheap Tuesday at the local cinema.

By Anonymous blue, at March 22, 2012 at 9:19 PM  

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