Saturday, February 04, 2012

THE GREY - Neeson Vs Wolves and Wilderness

THE GREY (adventure)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, Larissa Stadnichuk and James Bitonti
Director: Joe Carnahan
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, based on the story "Ghost Walker" by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Time: 117 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Neeson at the site of the crash

PREAMBLE: Ever since he starred in the 2008 sleeper Taken, Liam Neeson has become America's favourite action hero - the way Charles Bronson did in the 70s, and Harrison Ford did in the 80s and 90s. The tragic death of his wife, Natasha Richardson, in 2009 may have contributed some sympathy factors but since then, Neeson has been busier than ever, playing the cigar-chomping Hannibal in The A-Team, king of the gods Zeus in Clash of the Titans, and a doctor in Unknown.

This year, we will be seeing Neeson as an Admiral in Battleship, reprising his role as Zeus in Wrath of the Titans, The Dark Knight Rises and Taken 2. With its limited appeal type of subject matter, The Grey seems more like an art film, but it is given mainstream wide release because of Neeson's popularity.

The six survivors trekking to safety

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Neeson plays John Ottway, a borderline suicidal hunter hired by an Alaskan oil drilling team to shoot the wolves that occasionally threaten their base. When a tragic plane crash leaves Ottway and six other survivors in the snowy wastelands, he is forced to use his survival skills to lead the others to safety, keeping one step ahead of a pack of ravenous grey wolves that see the humans as intruders.

HITS & MISSES: Screenwriter-director Joe Carnahan keeps our attention glued to the screen with disturbing shots of wolves, the bleak but beautiful landscape of Alaska and the rantings of some of the red-necks that make up the crew of the oil drill team. These people, including Ottway, are the dregs of society. They are ex-convicts and fugitives from the law, people we don't care about if they become crash victims or wolf fodder. When their number is cut down, however, we discover more about their character and start to root for them.

If you watch this in a cineplex with the air-con turned up, the chills and shivers will be enhanced by images of howling winds and fleeting snow. A sense of depression and desperation pervades the film as the survivors try to find a way out. This is heightened by a tensed scene involving a rope bridge crossing. However, there are constant respites from these dreariness - in flashbacks of Ottway's daydreams and recollections of his wife and childhood.

On the minus side, the scenes of the wolves and their attacks look tacky. Carnahan glosses over them - and we only see the results, leaving a lot to our imagination. Also, the ending is abrupt, and although it is realistic, it may leave many viewers disappointed.

THE LOWDOWN: Could have been a better film with a few changes.


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