Friday, January 27, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Grey

The Grey
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Released January 27, 2012

When an actor’s face dominates the entirety of a movie poster, it’s fair to assume that much of the film relies on the strength of that actor’s abilities. In decades past, Liam Neeson turned in fine performances in films as diverse as the Oscar-winning drama “Schindler’s List” and the generally-despised “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” and recently, he has become known as the go-to guy to play the man you don’t want to mess with, capable of skillfully causing immense physical harm with little more than his bare hands. “The Grey” is a perfect vehicle for that Neeson persona.

Neeson firmly establishes his awesomeness within the first fifteen minutes of the film, as his suicidal rig worker and fellow members of his dream barely survive an intense Alaskan plane crash. Neeson’s Ottway literally talks a man through his death, telling him that he’s going to die and that he just has to let it wash over him. From that point on, nothing can intimidate Ottway, though that’s not the case for the ragtag bunch that surrounds him, which includes Frank Grillo as the prickly Diaz, Dallas Roberts as the kindly Hendrick, and Dermot Mulroney as the nervous Talget.

Any kind of wandering survival movie has its villains in nature, and, with one cold attack exempted, “The Grey” chooses to focus exclusively on wolves as the danger posed to the crew as they struggle to head south. While the wolves don’t necessarily make for a bad constant threat, it is a bit too focused, leaving off what could have been more compelling reasons for the group to fall apart. Director Joe Carnahan has previously made the excellent drama “Narc” and the fabulous action flick “Smokin’ Aces,” and this occasionally exciting wilderness thriller is hardly as compelling as either of those films.

“The Grey,” however, is a furiously stress-producing film that keeps its audience on the edge of their seats – sometimes with faces covered – as the group led by the incomparable Neeson/Ottway trudges through miles of white snow, just waiting for the next vicious wolf attack. It may hardly be the next great drama or the next great thriller, but for anyone who wants to see Neeson try to outsmart wolves and generally be about as much of a badass as possible, “The Grey” is exactly what was ordered. It may be ridiculous and far-fetched, but there’s no debating that it’s not fun.


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