The Grey – With Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts and others. Directed by Joe Carnahan.
John Ottway (Liam Neeson) has lost his way in life. He works in the wilds of Alaska as part of an oil drilling operation and is responsible for keeping the workers safe from the grey wolves that stalk the wilderness. The men he works with are much like himself, exiles from normal society. He has been separated from his wife and it is clear that he sees no real future for himself. He sees suicide as the only way out of his predicament. When disaster strikes, John’s decision to end his own life is put to the ultimate test. He becomes embroiled in a brutal struggle for survival and begins to realise that life might be worth living even after losing everything.
The Grey is an unrelenting depiction of humanity’s struggle for survival in a seemingly indifferent universe. On the surface, it can be enjoyed as a straightforward adventure film. The bleak wilderness of Alaska is powerfully evoked and the impossible odds the characters have to contend with makes for gripping drama. The actors all acquit themselves well and are convincing as rough-hewn men whose hearts are essentially in the right place, despite their personal shortcomings and inability to fit into society. It would have been easy for the film to present these men as mere victims. Instead, they come across as real human beings and we find ourselves genuinely rooting for their survival.
The philosophical subtext adds an additional layer of interest. The film addresses questions like the heartlessness of nature, the existence of God and human suffering. It avoids easy answers and viewers are left to bring their own interpretations to the film and the questions it raises. The Grey manages to entertain as a gritty adventure film while offering some food for thought as well and comes highly recommended.