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The Grey

It’s 'Man vs Wild Wolf' in this suspenseful Alaskan survival film.
By Tom Glasson
February 12, 2012
By Tom Glasson
February 12, 2012

There are two types of wolves in this world: the shirtless ones trying to kiss high school girls and the real ones trying to tear people’s throats out. Thankfully The Grey deals with the latter in this tense, snow-shrouded thriller by director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team).

Liam Neeson heads up the cast as John Ottway, a scowling loner marksman employed by an oil company to keep its workers safe from animal attacks. When his plane goes down in the Alaskan wilderness he and the other survivors must make their way back to civilisation whilst staving off both the unforgiving weather and a ravenous pack of wolves. “What do you call those ones that eat berries and grass and shit?” asks one of the men. “Not wolves” replies Ottway grimly, and he’s not kidding. The Grey’s predators are utterly terrifying, picking off the survivors one by one like raptors from Jurassic Park. Stirred into defensive frenzy they act like incensed hornets after a stone’s been thrown into their nest, only in this case the survivors are the stone. These dogs are calculating, ruthless and absolutely enormous (the sound of one taking down its victim was like an NFL linebacker sacking his opposing quarterback).

For a film that on paper reads almost exactly like 1997’s The Edge (where survivors of an Alaskan plane crash were stalked by a bear as they tried to return home), Carnahan has somehow achieved a very different feel in this piece. While The Edge was something of a ‘Jaws in the forest’ story The Grey almost plays like a war film in which battle lines are drawn, attacks are made from the flanks and wallets are collected from victims like dog tags off fallen soldiers. It’s one of those absorbing movies where even the restful scenes are full of tension and beneath every breathtaking shot by Masanobu Takayanagi lies an uncomfortable, lurking menace. Neeson’s performance exemplifies this quality, with his now familiar alpha-male grit underscored by a wonderfully restrained vulnerability.

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