Director Joe Carnahan makes his best movie yet with The Grey. Previously, Carnahan has worked on films like Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team, which were a mix of stylized action, quick cuts and comedy. The Grey is almost the complete opposite, aside from some stylistic filters. It’s much more of a human drama that tests the endurance and inner-strength of the human soul. It shows just how far a man can be pushed and still come back swinging with an internal fire that cannot be matched. In short, The Grey is Liam Neeson continuing to be a badass, but this time deserving an Oscar while doing so.
Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a huntsman. He works for a big oil company in Alaska. While the other men are working away, Ottway is silently hiding in the corners, keeping everyone protected from some of mother nature’s most deadly creatures. He keeps to himself for the most part, constantly reading an unsent letter that he wrote for a loved one, but don’t let that fool you, because Ottway is also a complete badass.
He’s just as dangerous as the wild he hunts, if not more.
During a routine flight home a plane goes down and most of the crew dies. The remaining members take shelter in the burnt wreckage as they draw up a plan. The coldness is creeping up on them and they don’t have a lot of food, water or resources. To make things even worse there’s a deadly pack of wolves on the prowl, slowly taking them out one by one as the days draw longer.
Ottway, Diaz (Frank Grillo), Talget (Dermot Mulroney), Lewenden (James Badge Dale) and a few other survivors attempt to make it across the snowy wasteland to a tree line that could lead to people, more shelter or protection from the hungry wolves.
The Grey on paper sounds like Liam Neeson vs. Wolves. While that idea sounds more than awesome, I must say the actual outcome of the movie is more rewarding than the concept. The trailers painted it out to be another generic winter action film, but this time with Neeson taking on the wild, instead of secret agents or assassins. The trailers do not show the film’s intentions and that’s both a good and a bad thing.
It’s a bad thing for the action junkies that walked away bored and disappointed, but it’s a good thing for those who went into it with an open mind, because chances are they ended up walking away incredibly impressed and more importantly awed by Neeson’s performance.
The film deals a lot with death and coming to terms with it. One could argue that the film takes you on a journey through the different stages of death like denial and acceptance. One could even go as far as arguing that the wolves are simply metaphors for a much more important message/meaning or that they don’t even exist, but I like to keep them as an actual physical force in the film.
Liam Neeson‘s performance is the absolute best thing in the movie. He’s had a rough few years and his real-life emotions sort of crossover with Ottway’s. Ottway is trying to get over a very near and dear person in his life and up until this point he was almost ready to give it all up. The film ultimately becomes a test of Ottway’s strength and will to survive. Never give up and keep on fighting the good fight becomes enough inspiration for Ottway to lead his men away from the wolves.
Neeson’s never been this extreme and deep before. He’s still that badass we’ve all grown to love, when he occasionally punches a wolf with glass hands or calls it a motherfucker, but he’s also a lonely and heartbroken human being with deep connections to nature, living creatures and death. He juggles a lot of heavy feelings and he does it with an awareness that I’ve never seen before. When the film was released earlier in the year there was talk about a re-release around Oscar season and I hope that comes true, because he delivers a year best performance and the film came out in January!
Another big factor in The Grey‘s success is Joe Carnahan‘s direction. He fills the film with long, snow-covered shots that soak up the scenery and help get that sense of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and feeling nothing but hopelessness. Carnahan and his director of photography make The Grey a visual beauty too.
There hasn’t been a more intense movie than The Grey this year. I’ve been waiting for something to come and knock it off of my best of list, but it’s still holding on strong. I haven’t been so moved by a single performance in years and I don’t think that’s going to change for a while. Liam Neeson and Joe Carnahan together make The Grey a bloody, badass, emotional thrill-ride that doesn’t let up until the final minutes. Make sure to stay after the credits!
Universal brings The Grey to Blu-Ray with a very gritty and grainy 1080p video transfer that’s an exact replication of the theatrical exhibition. The film doesn’t pop and feature lots of bright and sunny moments like one would expect, but that’s because Carnahan and his DP wanted to make everything grizzled and rugged. There’s a lot of post-production alteration and the score shouldn’t be faulted for successfully maintaining the specific vision of the director.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is bass-heavy and almost always active. For a dialogue-heavy film, the lossless track is consistently pumping out sound. The environment adds its own effects, like wind, wolves howling and general outdoor noise, but the man-made noise is equally present whenever Ottway and the gang start a fire or do battle with the wolves. Every single detail is amplified and gloriously detailed in this track. The best material for demo purposes is the opening plane crash. It will test your systems full capacity.
For whatever reason Universal has decided to release the film with barely any extras. Here’s a detailed list below:
- Audio Commentary: Director Joe Carnahan, and editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellmann fill this track with a lot of interesting details. They discuss the plane crash, the crew and various shooting aspects, while also touching up on how they decided to end the film. It’s a great listen for fans of the film.
- Deleted Scenes (HD): There’s about 22 minutes of deleted footage presented here. Most of it is extended or different takes, but it still makes for a worthy watch. I’m glad they cut what they did, because some of scenes found here are a bit too much.
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Copy
The Grey is a moving film that reminds every one of the force that is Liam Neeson. He’s such a high-caliber actor, capable of almost anything he sets his sights on. He takes The Grey and runs with it until the very end, providing the viewer with a challenging film that will test your own endurance. The film is paced a touch on the slower side, but that only helps everything settle in. There’s enough action to keep you interested and the scares rival recent horror films in release.
The only negative about the Blu-Ray is the special features. The audio track is good and even the handful of deleted scenes are worth the space, but that’s all the disc features. There are no featurettes or cast/crew interviews. The combo pack does include two digital copies and a DVD copy, so at least everyone in the house can experience the film, but the lack of bonus content really leaves me puzzled. Still, the quality outweighs the lack of features and makes The Grey a must own.
The Grey is an exceptional tale of survival and overcoming nature's most fierce obstacles. Liam Neeson leads a burly bunch of men with a performance that's very open and sincere.