As the lengthy list of upcoming movie previews drew to a close, the theater was packed pretty tightly for the first showing of “The Grey.”
Generally, I get annoyed rather easily by a packed house, because it usually means there is a high probability of cell phones ringing and dramatic he-said-she-said conversations in the background throughout the entire movie.
However, as soon as the bitter and empty void in which this story takes place filled the screen during the opening scene, the room quieted a little and when Liam Neeson’s opening monologue began, there wasn’t a sound in that theater other than his voice.
From that moment on, “The Grey” took complete hold over the audience. The heart of the story begins when a plane carrying a group of oil company employees crashes right into the heart of the Alaskan wilderness, leaving only a handful of survivors.
Neeson’s character, John Ottway, is the first to regain consciousness after the crash. He immediately begins trying to regain his composure and figure out if others survived the crash as well.
Ottway doesn’t really declare himself the leader, but he clearly has a better knowledge of this environment than any of the other survivors. His job at the oil company was to hunt and kill predators that could possibly harm the other workers.
As the men gather themselves and everything they can carry, they realize that surviving through a plane crash was merely the beginning of their journey.
There is a campfire scene in “The Grey” that playfully mentions one of its survival film predecessors, “Alive,” which is referred to as that movie with the guy from “Training Day” (Ethan Hawke). I was actually rather surprised with the amount of comic relief in this otherwise bleak and hopeless movie.
Of course, most of the comedy is directed at the nearly impossible feat these men are faced with, but it is still able to generate a laugh or two.
As the final scene drew to a close, there were a lot of unsatisfied customers around me. One woman behind me said, “It’s not going to end like that. Are you kidding me?” I couldn’t help but smile, because this is a trend I have been noticing more and more with genuinely good movies. It doesn’t have the gift-wrapped Hollywood happy-ending, so it’s no good.
To be honest, that’s part of what I loved about this movie. It sends us to the edge of our seats and gets our hearts pounding, but makes us use our heads as well. The ending was flawless when one considers the evolution of Ottway’s mental state from beginning to end.
There is a very brief scene at the end of the credits that will offer no more resolution to the naysaying critics of this film than the actual ending gave. Personally, I saw all the resolution I needed the minute that plane began to go down and Ottway prepared himself to head, “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.”
Although the only bold colors in “The Grey” came from blood and guts being scattered across the snow, the guiding force behind the movie was Ottway and his story, which was full of color and mystery. This is not only a survival story, but also the survival of a man’s will, even in the face of death.
January is typically a month known for mediocre studio projects. That’s just one more reason why people will be shocked by the impact of this film. Before seeing it, I read something that referred to this film as “‘Jaws’ in the woods.”
But there is so much more to “The Grey” than a simple, gore-infused horror film involving scary animals. “The Grey” will absolutely terrify people, because even if the plane crash and the wolves don’t kill these guys, the elements might.
Director Joe Carnahan has certainly created his best work to date in “The Grey,” and Neeson’s phenomenal, straight-from-the-heart acting was possibly his best and most personal on-screen performance yet. I recommend that you do not let this movie pass you by.