Saturday, 28 January 2012

Review: The Grey (minor spoilers)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Grey poster

The Grey (minor spoilers)
117 mins / Dir. Joe Carnahan

I've been going spoiler-free for cinema viewings recently. By which I mean, I'll see the trailer (if it's shown before a film I'm watching), and that'll be it. No interviews, no featurettes, and no promo-bumf. And I don't read any reviews before I see the film. Part of this is because I like to watch the film with minimal expectations, from a clean-slate as the creators intended. The other part of this is because I see quite a lot at the cinema, and I don't have time to research everything before I sit and watch it. I'm a punter: entertain me.

So having only seen the teaser trailer for The Grey, I'd half expected either a supernatural element to come into play, or a Shayalaman style twist at the end. As you're reading a spoilery review, I'll tell you that there's neither. It's also worth noting that it's not the action-packed survival thriller that the second trailer would have you believe. There are frantic fight scenes, and chases through snowy forests, but for the most part, it's a strangely introspective film.

The Plot: John Ottway*1 (Neeson) works for an oil drilling company in Alaska, hunting wild wolves that would be a threat to the other workers. When their plane crashes in the Alaskan wastes on the way home, only Ottway has the skills to lead the small party of survivors to salvation. But the team is made up of social rejects, and not everyone takes well to his authority. Especially the pack of wolves that are hunting them…

The Good: Some of the ideas are quite nicely explored; The wolves working cohesively as a pack have success in bringing down their prey because the humans won't team together. By the time this is resolved, it's largely too late because fatigue has kicked in. The scene at the crash-site where Ottway talks Hernandez through his imminent death is also beautifully realised. The quiet acceptance of The Inevitable is a recurring theme, and one of the film's greatest strengths. A series of gradual-reveal flashbacks fills us in on Ottway's past, and while there's nothing surprising there, they're executed well enough to work properly.

Also worth noting; there are some beautiful desolate snowscape-shots that had me thinking "Echo Three to Echo Seven, Han old buddy, do you read me?"
But you know what I'm like.

The Bad: Well, not bad, but it feels like there was some pressure to make it more of an action film, and it's really not. The adrenaline-pumping plane crash sequence works well as the movie's been leading up to that point, but subsequent chase scenes seem sporadic and out of place. There are plenty of dramatic scenes that work well without the pounding music, and it's a shame that The Grey is trying to be two different things. It's too ponderous to be an action film, but the adrenaline spikes often pull it out of drama.

The Ugly: Neeson's lines are a little mumbled at the start, what with him using his actual accent, and the lines being his internal monologue so they're quite subdued. Other than that, nothing to report.

Worth the Trip? You probably won't lose too much by seeing it on DVD, but the calmness of the photography and intensity of the crash sequence are made for the big screen.

Ten years ago, I'd have hated the end to this film. Today, I love the end to this film.


*1 Yes, his character's actually called John Ottway. When he introduces himself to a character named John Diaz, they both chuckle, but I'm not sure if that's because they're both called John, or they're thinking "yes, like the mental songwriter".

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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