Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Grey

Liam Neeson punches wolves a little....battles nature and human instinct like a boss.

This is the most basic and generic statement I can make about a movie that is so much more on every level. Every trailer that was shown gives you a feeling that this is a action movie that pits Neeson and the other survivors of a terrible plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness against a pack of hungry wolves. Its a shame that this is the way the advertisers went as the movie is really an analysis of the human condition. How we as people deal with tragedy,loss,anger,hopelessness and fear. How we battle those demons. That is the heart of The Grey. Not Liam punching wolves to death.

This movie is more akin to the works of Jack London rather than Michael Bay. Its man versus nature in every sense and nature is a cruel mistress. It is uncaring, unforgiving and knows it will be there long after our existence has ended. After seeing this movie I understand why Jack London wrote about areas of Alaska for his works. Its the deadly beauty of this environment that is appealing to the writer and now to the viewers of The Grey. I give the cast and crew kudos for filming this outdoors for the majority of it as it adds to the realism. You get the harshness of a blizzard, ice building up all over, being immobilized in deep snow. You see the perils of traversing through a forest and treacherous mountain range. You also get the serenity of the slow flowing river with its mirror like surface showing a reflection of the snow capped mountains and pine forest. It was just breathtaking how pretty this movie was at times. The movie is also brutal and graphic equally as well.
Speaking of beauty in this movie I have to talk about Neeson's performance. It is Oscar worthy. Really. After watching this I now know why the studio wants to re-release this in the fall of 2012 to remind the Academy just how damn powerful his performance was. He is a man haunted by his past. He ran away to work in Alaska to escape the pain. After the crash he is intense and seems focused on surviving and saving the people who made it. There is a scene where he talks a person through what it is going to be like to die. This person is bleeding out in the wreckage and they can't save him. It was gripping. What he does just with his eyes and tone of voice is astounding. Later in the movie there is a campfire scene where they are confronting a survivor who is acting up to mask his fear and Liam talks him down. His admittance that he too his terrified was also shocking considering all the heroism he has done up to that point. I then thought back on his acting and it was ALWAYS terror and fear. Its how he managed it that made him look strong and unafraid of their situation. Just brilliant. And while I'm gushing about Neeson if it wasn't for the other cast members being just as great this performance couldn't have happened. You feel for these men trapped out in the wilderness being hunted and you mourn for them as they lose their lives in the struggle. Not just against the wolves but against nature itself and their own human mistakes.

I also have to give Joe Carnahan, the director and one of the screen writers, a hearty standing ovation for what he has done with this. I didn't think he had this kind of emotional movie in his bag of tricks. He managed to direct two very excellent action films, Smokin' Aces and The A-Team, but this is beyond the scope of those movies. He should be nominated for a best director Oscar.

This movie really stuck with me after it ended. I was emotionally exhausted after watching it. It was like watching a few people live, and I mean LIVE, their lives for the first time. It was painful to see them lose those same lives in the process. I wasn't alone as my wife was also emotionally invested in this film. There were moments of horror that shook her and moments of outright sadness that made her cry. She loved every second of that too.

So I'm sure you are thinking....do they survive? I won't tell you. I will tell you to see this movie either in the theater or when you can get it on Netflix. Just watch it. It is good. It is a human drama. It was well worth seeing and its one of the few movies I will call a 'film' versus a flick. Films deserve high praise and so does The Grey. Any movie my wife turns to me and says 'We are OWNING this when it comes out on Blu!' also says its worth seeing multiple times to fully soak in the experience. See this!

And make sure you stay through the credits after for the final scene of the movie....