The plane hits a storm in mid-flight, however, causing it to go down in the middle of nowhere. Only eight men survive the crash, and though they barely know one another, they're forced to band together to survive blisteringly cold and snowy conditions. But soon they realize there's a more vicious enemy at hand: a pack of wolves looking not just to eat, but also to defend their territory against the human interlopers.
The End Result
The thrill factor shouldn't be discounted, however. Director Joe Carnahan imbues the action scenes with such a visceral energy, such urgency, you're thrust headlong into the midst of a airplane crash, a blizzard, a raging river and an animal attack. The camerawork is violent and inventive, and the sound is jarring and eerie, heightening the mythic nature of the wolves, which serve a similar role to the lions in the 1996 Michael Douglass-Val Kilmer film The Ghost and the Darkness: a semi-mystical punishment for humans intruding on their natural surroundings (an intriguing role reversal of Ottway's job).
Neeson leads a strong cast with stoic dignity tempered by unexpected vulnerability. It's the polar opposite of his previous collaboration with Carnahan, the cartoonish A-Team adaptation. Following that and the equally over-the-top Smokin' Aces, The Grey is a welcome return to the gritty realism (well, as realistic as a killer pack of rogue wolves can be) of his 2002 breakout film Narc. Even the wolf effects eschew obvious CGI in favor of a believable blend of real animals, computer effects and animatronics. It's just one more way The Grey doesn't go the easy Hollywood genre route -- i.e., no wolf punching.
- Acting: B+ (Top-notch dramatic work all around.)
- Direction: A (Gritty, visceral, unnerving, yet touching.)
- Script: B (Dramatic, emotional and uncompromising.)
- Gore/Effects: B- (Solid gore, realistic animal effects.)
- Overall: B+ (Deeper and more introspective, emotional and dramatic than it has any right being -- though not at the cost of adrenaline-packed action sequences.)
The Grey is directed by Joe Carnahan and is rated R by the MPAA for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language. Release date: January 27, 2012.