Monday, 8 April 2013


“Come away, O human child: To the waters and the wild with a fairy, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” - William Butler Yeats

We watched a rather depressing movie at the weekend. It was Joe Carnahan’s 2011 “The Grey” starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo. The screenplay was by Joe Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, based on the latter’s short story “Ghost Walker”. The film is very similar to several others we have watched in terms of its basic plot and exposition, this being essentially a group of people trekking across a natural wilderness full of dangers overt and hidden, desperately trying to survive. As such a tale, the film doesn’t really measure up too favourably with pre-existing movies that have done it better… For example, “The Way Back”; “Rabbit-Proof Fence”; “Deliverance”; “Alive”; “The Flight of the Phoenix”, and many many more.

The plot of “The Grey” is set in the wilds of Alaska, where a team of oil workers board a flight a plane to take them home (this may explain the constant stream of expletives used through the movie too). Unfortunately for them, a wild storm develops and their airplane crashes. Only seven workers survive in the freezing, uninhabited wastes and John Ottway (Neeson), who is a huntsman that normally kills wolves to protect the workers at the oil plant, assumes leadership of the group. While they try to hatch a plan for survival and escape to a settlement, they become aware that they are surrounded by a large pack of wolves. They seek protection in the woods some distance off, however, the wolves follow them intent on killing them. Warning, there are some graphically violent scenes of animal against human in this movie!

The film examines several themes: Man against nature; the idea of death and how we each become resigned to our own mortality; faith; companionship and friendship in the face of adversity; leadership and the way that we need each other in order to have a chance of survival. The movie is quite ambitious, but perhaps it tries to do too much with too little material and then even succumbs to supernatural overtones through the representation of the wolves as vengeful killing machines that will not let their human prey escape, their motivation being “revenge”.

Neeson (but also the rest of the cast) play their roles well, working within the limitations of the script. The cinematography is good and the frozen expanses work well. What CGI and animatronics effects are used are used well. This is Hollywood at its usual technically competent best. However, this is not enough to make a satisfying movie. The ending especially was particularly lame and made one question the point of the movie, as it struck a rather nihilistic note.

We were engaged by the movie up to a point. Midway through its rather long 117 minute length, we started to get a little restless and there was some repetition. Watch the movie if you come up against it and you are in that “what-are-we-humans-we-are nothing” philosophical frame mind. However, I wouldn’t recommend going out to search especially for this movie to watch.

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