The Grey Review (Matt Hodgson)

The Grey (2011)

Starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, and Frank Grillo

Screenplay by Joe Carnahan

Directed by Joe Carnahan

I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that since Taken (2008), Liam Neeson has a special place as one of the baddest men on the planet and I mean that in a good way. Let me try to explain how bad he is. If Liam Neeson wanted my last fruit cup, I would give it to him. If he picked a fight with me, I would punch myself in the face repeatedly, while also apologizing profusely for the un-Neeson-like strength of my punches. If I heard a rumour from a friend of mine who was notorious for making up rumours, and the rumour was that Liam Neeson didn’t like my review of The Grey…then I’d probably look into personal funeral options, immediately. Anyone know the number of a good undertaker?


The plot of The Grey is quite simple and potentially very effective. A group of men contracted to work in Alaska are on their way back home for a two-week vacation. All that’s left between them and their destination is a plane ride that turns bumpy and eventually crashes in the great white middle of bloody nowhere. Most of the passengers have perished in the crash, but a small group of men find themselves in the unwelcoming position of having to collect what few mental marbles they have left and think of a plan that could lead them out of this wintery hell. A troubled but knowledgeable man named Ottway (Neeson) proves to be the best leader out of the group of survivors. However, even if they follow Ottway and listen to his every order, there is still no guarantee that these men will survive to see their families again, let alone the morning. If the cold doesn’t kill them, then a pack of bloodthirsty predators pursuing them will certainly try. It seems like these tired and hungry humans are a poor combative match-up against these deadly beasts.

I thought that The Grey started out perfectly. Neeson’s character is cold, hardened, mysterious, and deadly, just like the environment that the group of survivors find themselves in. The film gets right to the point as it feels like the plane crash happens within the first 15 minutes of the film. Also, there are some excellent dream sequences which effectively utilize the common intrusion of sensory experience on our dreams. I can’t believe I’m actually praising dream sequences as they are usually one of my least favourite narrative devices, but at the beginning of The Grey they really are quite impressive. Unfortunately, this pretty much sums up what I think are the positive elements of the film.

I’ve heard complaints about The Grey regarding the story’s believability, but I don’t find this to be a very valid criticism. Sure, a lot of what happens in The Grey is pretty outlandish, but it could happen, and it’s also not a discovery channel survival documentary…it’s a movie. My personal problem with The Grey is that I didn’t care about the fate of the characters after about twenty minutes. This was mainly due to some very questionable plot decisions that may leave you scratching your head. I think The Grey uses a different type of logic than the one I’m familiar with. So often throughout the film, obvious decisions for the characters were anything but obvious to me. A particular scene on the edge of a cliff really made me wonder if the characters had smoked some exceptionally powerful crack before arriving at their conclusions.

Finally, the editing during the action sequences derailed much of the excitement for me as I tried to figure out who or what I was looking at. From what I could tell it seemed like the filmmakers used a combination or CGI and puppets for the predators. It was nice to see something besides CGI being used, but unfortunately it wasn’t very effective as the most often used puppet seemed to be a head with sharp teeth that would literally fill the screen during many of the attack sequences, adding to the confusion of these scenes as it was impossible to see anything else.

I wish I could have written a more positive review for this film; I was very excited for its release and as I have said, I’m a big Liam Neeson fan, but some questionable decisions with the script and some confusing editing during the action sequences make it difficult to be very excited to watch this one again.

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