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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.95%
Worth A Look67.44%
Just Average: 6.98%
Pretty Crappy: 4.65%
Sucks: 6.98%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Grey, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Is It Lupus?"
4 stars

At this time, I suppose that I must confess that I have never been much of a fan of stories in which ordinary people are somehow trapped out in the middle of nowhere and left to fend for themselves against the cruelties of nature in a desperate effort to survive and make it back to civilization. You see, I have never been much for the so-called pleasures of the wild--a trek through the parking lot at Walmart is enough to fill me with raw terror and my decision to abandon Boy Scouts was due less to their virulent anti-gay policies and more to their equally shameful camping-outside agenda--and whenever I encounter a tale in which someone is trapped in a dangerous mountain range, arid desert or uncharted island and forced to battle any and all elements, it is hard for me to truly sympathize with them because if they weren't so damned stupid as to put themselves in such positions by doing such foolish things as flying, boating, exploring or quenching their thirst for adventure, they wouldn't be struggling to survive and envying those of us whose life choices haven't led to finding themselves trapped on a remote island with no apparent chance of escape. (Of course, in the singular case of "Return to the Blue Lagoon," the envy is reverse but that is pretty much the only exception.) Therefore, it takes a lot for a story along these lines to overcome my innate prejudices towards this particular genre and the great outdoors Grand Guignol "The Grey" does that in spades with a story so gripping and gruesome in its depiction of all the horrors that the vindictive bitch known as Mother Nature has to offer that even the hardiest Jack London buff will find themselves quaking in their Timberlands and refusing to venture out anywhere more potentially dangerous than the local Olive Garden.

Our story begins at a remote oil pumping facility in the very far north of Alaska, a place that is accessible--barely--by plane and which has enough ferocious wolves roaming around in the general area to require having someone on the payroll whose job it is to shoot said wolves when they get too close to the workers. That man is John Ottway (Liam Neeson), an enigma wrapped in a parka who is haunted by the memories of the woman he left behind and who has barely been introduced to us before we see him contemplating suicide, presumably not for the first time. Before long, John and most of the other workers board a plane to return to civilization for a few days of leave but the plane crashes into the middle of frozen nowhere, killing all but seven people, including John. At first, they scour the wreckage for supplies and light fires in the hopes of attracting rescuers but whatever glimmers of hope they have for survival begin to dampen during their first night when the guy standing guard moves away from their safety zone to answer nature's call and gets savaged by wolves as a result. Upon discovering the carnage and realizing that Sarah Palin most likely will not be choppering in to gun down the beasts from the sky, John takes charge and leads them on an arduous journey to a line of trees that he believes will offer them more protection against the wolves until they are found. Needless to say, their quest does not go particularly smoothly as the elements--both lupine and otherwise--conspire to pick the men off one by one until (Spoiler Alert!) it inevitably comes down to a final confrontation between John, for whom the experience has brought a newfound love of life, and the alpha wolf of the pack, who has been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to transform Obi-Wan Kenobi's mentor into a chew toy and isn't about to let that slip through his paw.

With "The Grey," director/co-writer Joe Carnahan has essentially compiled a laundry list of things that would strike fear and terror in the hearts of most viewers--being trapped in the frozen wilderness, being eaten by wolves, plane crashes, heights, drowning and being forced to spend an inordinate amount of time in the company of Dermot Mulroney--and devised a manner of ruthlessly mining them for the maximum amount of tension with virtually no respite for the duration of its running time. This is most certainly not one of those movies that allows you to sit back and contemplate the quiet beauty of nature. Instead, it stands as a constant reminder that the wild is a harsh, cruel and unforgiving place and those who enter it with realizing that are doomed to suffer at its hands, often in the most agonizing ways imaginable. Because the is so bleak and unsparing, there is the question of why anyone would possibly want to subject themselves to the unpleasantness that it has to offer. Well, there is the inescapable fact that while it is indeed a nightmare from beginning to end, it is an exceptionally well-crafted one indeed--Carnahan has stripped away the flashy foolishness that marred such previous efforts as "Narc," "The A-Team" and the legendarily loathsome "Smokin Aces" in order to come up with a lean and laconic work in which everything moves forward with relentless precision and where the brutality faced by John and his fellow survivors is depicted in such a straightforward manner that even the hardiest viewers will find themselves wincing from time to time. (The attack scenes involving the wolves were presumably done with some combination of trained animals, dummies and possibly even some CGI but you will be hard-pressed to see the seams.) There is also the strong and sure central performance from Liam Neeson, who has quietly become one of the most unexpected cinematic action heroes of our time. It takes a certain type of actor to convincingly play someone who can not only hold his own against the vastness of nature and terrors within but who could possibly triumph over them and Neeson is certainly that man and then some.

I do have a couple of minor quibbles with "The Grey." For one, even though I realize that the supporting cast of walking dead meat are needed in order to be dramatically sacrificed approximately once per reel but the minimalist in me couldn't help but wonder at times what the story might have been like if the Neeson character had been the only survivor and had to face both the external dangers and his inner turmoils by himself. I also couldn't help but notice the what was presumably meant to be the film's iconic image--a nighttime shot in which the glowing eyes of the advancing wolf pack slowly begin cutting through the darkness--comes across as being just a little too obviously fake for its own good. Those flaws aside, "The Grey" is a surprisingly effective work that grabs viewers right from the start and refuses to relinquish its grip on them until the very end. It does this so effectively, in fact, that it may prove to be too much for some viewers who may despair of its unremittingly grim tone and deliberate lack of any mitigating elements designed to cushion the blows that it has in store. If you suspect that you might be that kind of person, you might want to give this one a pass. If you do wind up going to see it and find yourself despairing after all, all I can do is suggest that you stick around for the duration of the end credits for a final little bonus that may allow you to leave the theater feeling a little more hopeful about what you have just experienced. Then again, maybe it won't.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23103&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/26/12 21:01:08
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell solid man vs nature flick 4 stars
3/18/15 Tony Excellent thriller but depressing. negative ending. 5 stars
2/28/13 ralph georgalis a fantastiic, frightning, spellbindinng, depressing, absorbing, epic that dares to explore 5 stars
2/11/13 roscoe Good, but overlong, predictable, and loses my interest in the last 40 minutes 3 stars
1/19/13 Joe smaltz Could have been a good movie, but needed a technical advisor. Just too crappy fantasy . 2 stars
12/05/12 yzer If the wolves don't look quite natural, it was intentional. 5 stars
8/26/12 David Pollastrini Great plane crash scene. 4 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison So far, the best thriller of 2012. 5 stars
6/21/12 Yannik marazia Amazing movie one of the best i've ever seen, and not because of the effects or action scei 5 stars
6/14/12 The Taitor Decent rental, good cinematography but shoddy cgi wolves and script, good ending 3 stars
5/27/12 mr.mike Quite good with Neeson fine as always. 4 stars
5/25/12 Kevin C scary as Hell! 4 stars
5/16/12 Kale A misrepresented waste of time! 1 stars
5/13/12 Monday Morning Screw you for demonizing wolves. 1 stars
3/08/12 G Scott Let the wolves win, Liam! 2 stars
2/08/12 al rudolf Not worth an ice cube. 1 stars
2/03/12 James Ragsdale Good, grim movie. Fine cinematography. 4 stars
2/02/12 Quigley A primal, relentlessly intense, bone-chilling thriller. Don't miss it. 5 stars
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  27-Jan-2012 (R)
  DVD: 22-May-2012


  DVD: 22-May-2012

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