Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie review: "The Grey"

Marooned in the frozen Alaska wilderness, punished by a raging blizzard, and surrounded by a vicious pack of hungry wolves, a group of men have the same thought:

"Where's Bear Gryllis when you need him?"

OK, maybe they didn't think that. But I did, as I watched "The Grey," the 2011 movie starring Liam Neeson. This is an intense survival story, and if you're like me, you put yourselves in the characters shoes and wonder, "What would I do in this situtation?" And what would Gryllis, host of Discovery Channel's "Man vs. Wild," do?

"The Grey" isn't a great movie, but it's still good entertainment, especially if you like survival stories. The plot keeps you engaged throughout and has a fair share of surprises.

The story involves a group of oil workers whose plane crashes somewhere in Alaska. Most on the flight are killed, but seven survive, including Neeson's character, John Ottway, who becomes the group's de facto leader.

Things look bad for the group, especially when one of them is soon eaten by wolves. But they manage to make it even worse by squabbling and fighting among themselves.

Some of the men in the group are irritated by the way Ottway takes command, and so was I. Sure, he's the most capable and level-headed of the group, but he has a habit of spitting out directives ("We figure out which way is south and then start walking") without the slightest discussion. Maybe, just maybe, someone else might have a good idea?

Fortunately, we're distracted from Neeson's leadership qualities by getting the chance to hate the designated loudmouth jerk in the group, Diaz, played nicely by Frank Grillo.

Director Joe Carnahan is going for deeper meanings here, as Ottway muses on the nature of life, death and lost love, but I'm not sure it's needed. There's plenty of drama in a pack of blood-thirsty wolves circling your campsite.

Spoiler alert! I'm going to discuss the ending below.

There are two elements in the ending that bugged me.

Near the end, Ottway and another man end up in a river together and the other man dies in a way that's awfully similar to a scene in "Sometimes a Great Notion." I'm not sure if the writers really stole the idea, but it struck me as so similar that it disengaged me from the action.

Ottway then leaves this Alaskan river where the water is certainly close to freezing his clothes soaking wet. Anyone who has ever watched "Man vs. Wild" knows what he has to do immediately strip off his wet clothes and build a fire, or he will certainly freeze to death. But he doesn't, and what's worse, he's not even shivering. 


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