Liam Neeson returns to our screens with his best effort at action thriller to date. (For the record this reviewer did not like either Taken or Unknown). In the Grey he plays John Ottway who works in Alaska hunting the wolves that threaten an oil drilling team. On his last day on the job, Ottway pens a letter to his wife Ana (Anne Openshaw) and plans to commit suicide. While holding his gun to his mouth, however, Ottway hears the howl of a wolf, which stops him.
Upon the completion of the job, the team and Ottway embark on a plane home in a blizzard. The plane cannot withstand the weather and it crashes in the middle of nowhere. Ottway awakens and finds Todd Flannery (Joe Anderson) along with Talget (Dermot Mulroney), Diaz (Frank Grillo), Hendrick (Dallas Roberts), Burke (Nonso Anozie), Hernandez (Ben Bray) and a dying Lewenden (James Badge Dale).
Ottway assumes leadership of the group and sets the survivors to task collecting material for a fire. However while completing this task Ottway discovers a pack of gray wolves, which then start to prey on the survivors of the crash. Ottway decides that their only hope for survival is to head south into the woods and try and find civilization before it's too late. However, they find themselves at every turn not only battling with a hungry pack of wolves but also the elements as well.
The Grey is one of those films that promises a lot from its trailer. In fact it almost comes across as a full blown actioner; however this is a tad misleading as what you have here is a survival movie more in the vein of The Thing with elements of Cliffhanger and the Sidney Poiter & Tom Berenger 80's film Deadly Pursuit. The cast are slowly whittled down after fulfilling their various character traits of those in a survival movie, (The scared one, the ill one, the leader, the family man & the voice of reason.) So the film probably would have been a harder sell, if they portrayed it as it is a slow building nerve shredder. Although the only real moments of fear come from the wolf howls which punctuate the soundtrack, much in the same way that Tobe Hoopers Texas Chainsaw Massacre did with the mono soundtrack comprised solely of a woman’s screams.
As the group slowly get whittled down to the final few, the desperation creeps in and you begin to feel it, however the characters development leaves a lot to be desired as they really don’t bother with it, despite the near 2 hour run time, which actually makes you not really care when they die, but actually make you want the trailers promised moment of Liam Neeson facing off against the furry foes with the mini bar broken bottles taped to his fists in a makeshift knuckle duster. But it's at this moment that the film's strength really lies as Ottway goes through the collected wallets from all those who have fallen that you begin to form an attachment. But by this time it's all a little too late.
This then leads to the films finest moment, its conclusion. We mean this in a nice way not that the film has ended. It's a brave choice to end the film from the director Joe Carnahan, but it works and makes the entire journey worthwhile. In fact Carnahans direction is beautifully bleak as the cast run and scramble through the barren snow landscape, jumping from cliffs & being pursued through the forest. Far better than what he did with The A-Team anyway. In fact if he had put this much effort into the woeful A-Team, that would have come across a lot better.
Of his cast, only his Hannibal, Liam Neeson & Dermot Mulrooney come across well, of the rest of his cast, they are nothing but merely fodder for either the elements or the wolves.
A nice little thriller that will while away a couple of hours. If you happen to not like the ending, then stick around for the end of the credits.