Liam Neeson plays John Ottway, a sharpshooter hired to keep predatory wolves out of an oil station in the remotest part of Alaska. He becomes the leader of a ragtag group of survivors when the plane transporting them to their oil job crashes in the wilderness. Hunted by wolves and exposed to the elements, Ottway’s know-how is the only thing between freezing to death or, worse, becoming the big bad wolf’s dinner.
Richard: Chris, the thing that separates The Grey from other man-versus-nature movies is the characters. At first glance they are the usual assortment of rough and ready characters: the edgy chatterbox, the ex con. But soon nuances appear. They shed tears and even recite poetry when not fighting off steely-eyed wolves. Most action movies are only concerned about setting up the action and the payoff. The Grey isn’t. It wants you to get to know the men so when something awful happens to them, you care.
Chris: That’s what I found so disarming about the picture, that lyricism. The trailer certainly leads you to believe that it’s all about Neeson suiting up with busted bottle fingertips, growling and boxing toothy timber-wolves. And while we DO get that, its strength is that tapestry of characters and how instead of becoming more savage as their situation becomes more desperate, they become more human. This is as much Hemingway as it is horror show. Speaking of horror … what did you think about those wolves? Did you buy it?
RC: For me the wolves were the least interesting part of the movie. They make for cunning foes, but Neeson’s Wolf Whisperer character defanged some of the horror because he understood and was able to explain their behaviour. A dose of unpredictability might have been scarier for me. Having said that, I still wouldn’t want to meet up with any of the movie’s wolves, no matter how much CGI was involved.
CA: Ahhhh…I loved them. Of course, they are not based in reality by any stretch. But that’s OK, neither was Bruce the Shark in Jaws. The wolves are death itself, stalking the men, toying with them, picking them off randomly and without warning in novel and gruesome ways. On that tip, The Grey is kind of the spiritual sister to the Final Destination films. OK, that may be a stretch, but the wolves and their almost supernatural presence really do push the film into an almost surreal area that I liked. And I’d be willing to bet some viewers won’t like them for that very reason…
RC: The wolves, I guess, are the film’s hook, but for me it’s all about the characters. Come for the wolves! Stay for the characters!
CA: Well, whether it be wolves, sensitive manly men or a glimpse into the snowy hell that we’ve mercifully been spared this year, The Grey is spectacular entertainment.