Wednesday’s What You Should Watch – The Grey
I gotta hand it to the marketing team of “The Grey“. Those guys and girls did a REALLY good job of promoting the heck out of their film. When I first saw the previews, I thought the film looked pretty silly. I mean, wolves hunting down people in the cold? I think I saw that before with “The Edge” only it was a bear, and in “Frozen” although they were skiers and not plane crash survivors. But honestly, not many movies use wolves as their villains. Sharks are popular, so are zombies, but wolves? Sure, they’re fast, and really, they’re furry velociraptors, but it’s been a while since they’ve been used in film to kill people, especially if one of those potential people to be killed is Liam Neeson.
So, back to the marketing. I saw the trailer, then I saw another, then I saw the red band trailer and I was like, this movie could be actually pretty fun to see in the theater with a giant tub of popcorn. I read the reviews when it was released, and well, it seemed deserving of $8. It definitely is. You could watch it at home on DVD and enjoy it, but seeing on screen was pretty intense. I’m trying to think of other words to describe it. I guess I’ll give it a logline.
“The Grey” is a brutal and sometimes agonizing (in a good-thriller way) film about a group of men who survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness and are subsequently hunted down by wolves. That right there, tells you really, all you need to know about the film. It’s a bunch of guys, and we seem them in opening scenes as rough and tough, drinkers, and chasing after girls. Except for Liam Neeson, there is something different about him, we know he’s been through loss (but we don’t find out why until later in a small and touching reveal) and has loved. They board and a plane and it crashes. Boy, does it crash. The plane crash scene is very well done especially since we KNOW from the beginning that it’s going to, so we’re just wondering how. There is a lot of dread and then the actual crash is loud, chaotic, horrifying in many ways. The aftermath is just as awful. There’s a wrenching death very early on that seems to set the tone for the rest of the film. It’s bloody, very matter of fact, very honest. And really, the entire movie is fairly plausible, probably more so than some of the other survival movies out there.
The Alaskan wilderness is probably the worst place to crash in, maybe the desert and ocean would be bad, but the cold could kill you overnight, there’s practically nothing to eat, it’s hard slogging through snow, and then there’s wolves hunting you down, chasing you through the snow that’s already hard to walk through. These guys are really there. Shots show us the wilderness, show us the deep snow, there are no/very little sound stage scenes. The wolf attacks are actually less gory than I thought they would be, but they’re probably as realistic as they could be. Fast, loud, and vicious.
The film does a really good job of coming up with ways to threaten its characters and keep us hopeful that they will survive. There are a lot of wolves and soon, not many men left. It isn’t just the wolves that kill them, one death scene is awful to watch because of the futility/hope involved. This movie is not happy in any way, shape, or form. Sure, there are some jokes, but after it was over, I really felt drained. You care for the characters, you want them to live, they already survived a plane crash, would it be too much to ask that they are able to escape the wolves?
I actually enjoyed the ending of the film and the use of a poem that I’m sure frat boys will adopt into some sort of drinking toast. Some people might have a problem with it, but here’s a tip, stay until after the credits (thanks for the heads up Roger Ebert) and draw your own conclusions. Taken as a whole, for a movie about wolves trying to kill people, it’s actually a LOT more than that. I was surprised, not pleasantly, because the movie is so intense, but I was surprised in a very good way. I have the feeling this movie is going to get a pretty strong following on DVD, so if you don’t see it in the theater, I’d definitely say watch it at home.