Movie Review: The Grey

“The Grey” on IMDB

Thriller, 117 Minutes, 2011

Survival thrillers are a favorite of mine.  Seeing people use the materials at hand and overcome incredible odds never gets old.  I assumed I’d see men at their breaking points MacGyvering weapons and overcoming fierce wolves.  Unfortunately this isn’t that kind of movie (although it repeatedly probes in that direction).  But I really thought it was and I must admit that I had a very hard time switching gears and it definitely colored my perceptions.

When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness a small group of oil-workers are set upon by a pack of timber wolves.  This is especially ironic for Ottway (Neeson) who has spent his career hunting wolves for the oil company.  Most of the movie plays by the numbers after this.  We get to know the characters as they work and argue together and are picked of by the elements or the wolves.

The movie’s at its best during these scenes, when the men are working through problems or getting to know one another.  There are some excellent performances and short monologues even if they tend towards self-inflation and pretentiousness.  Unfortunately the rest of the movie fails to hang together as well.  The wolves, especially, are basically cartoons.  They appear when and where they’ve no right to, then quietly go away to allow for more conversation.  Ottway offers simplistic, trite explanations of their actions but anybody that’s ever watched “National Geographic” knows that wolves just don’t act the way these wolves do.

Overall I did like the movie, especially the performances (although I wouldn’t argue with anybody that said they were too melodramatic and overwrought) but was greatly disappointed that the wolves completely lacked any interesting character.  As I started with: this really isn’t a survival thriller.  Consider it, instead, a character study of a broken man set against the backdrop of a surival thriller and you might get more out of it than I did.

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