“The Grey” Movie Review

     If your looking for a film to give you a lift on a cold January day, “The Grey” is not it.  The film gives you that sense of bitter cold during its entire running time and the storm, it seems, never lets up both figuratively and realistically.  Liam Neeson stars in yet another January released thriller and he seems to have found a home in the month.  Following in the footsteps of  the high octane “Taken” and the memory loss thriller “Unknown”, Neeson is back with a film of about the same quality, which is to say “The Grey” is top notch.  I wonder if Neeson will come to realize he would be better off having a film like “The Grey” come out in the fall instead?  As one of the best actors in film today, it’s performances like the one he gives in “The Grey” that will be most certainly ignored come awards season in late 2012.  And what a shame that is, since you are not likely to find a more gutty performance than the one Neeson gives here.

     Neeson’s character, Ottway, is a security specialist of sorts with an oil drilling team in Alaska.  It appears his specialty is dealing with wolf attacks during the company’s operations and he does so with precision via rifle.  For a band of typically diverse oil drillers on their way via plane back to civilization, having a man of Ottway’s skills with them turns out to be quite beneficial.  I find it funny that Neeson’s characters always seem to “have a very special set of skills” (Taken), which always put him in the very forefront of what’s going on in the plot.  In “The Grey”, the plane never makes it to civilization and crashes in the middle of a snowy nowhere.  As the men try to survive, they are met with a threat much worse than the weather.  They are being tracked by a large pack of wolves and Ottway is the only chance the small group of survivors has to live through the situation.

     I was reminded of the film “Alien” many times during “The Grey”.  Even though the pack of wolves seemed to be more than capable of taking out the eight or so men at any time they wanted, they preferred to pick them off one at a time.  The film is a series of set ups where these grisly attacks occur.  Sometimes a sequence is obvious as the men are being chased and one of them isn’t lucky enough to maneuver their way out of danger.  Other times, the men are simply trying to plot their next move around a camp fire and a wolf comes out of no where.  It’s because of scenes like this the film becomes quite unpredictable and with each attack, you get the sense of dread.  As if things aren’t going to work out for these guys.

     Director Joe Carnahan successfully abandons the comic book like feel of his previous couple films (“The A-Team”, “Smokin Aces”) and returns to the raw, gut wrenching themes of his best work (“Narc”) in “The Grey”.  It is clear his vision of putting his characters into what seems to be a hopeless situation bodes well for creating an intensity unrivaled by most films I’ve seen recently.  It helps also to have a mostly unknown cast so there are no preconceived notions as to who will live and who will die.  With Ottway, you get the idea he has the pedigree and survival skills to live through this no win scenario.  The rest of the characters are developed just enough that your not so sure.  GRADE: B