Reviewed by Mike Ferraro
If you said about a decade ago that Liam Neeson would shape up to be one of the best action stars around, no one would have believed you. Ever since he punched his way through Europe in Pierre Morel’s Taken, it seems that action yet another of Neeson’s niches. Sure, he’s had a misstep or two (Unknown, the Titans films), but here comes The Grey to completely forgive any wrongdoing he has done. Calling this a straight-up action film (as marketing would have had you believe) is simply not doing the film justice.
Neeson plays Ottway, an especially skilled hunter hired by an oil company to protect workers from the various types of threatening wildlife they may encounter while in the Alaskan wilderness. After the job is over, he and the crew get on a plane back to civilization, only the plane goes through some rocky turbulence and crashes (in what may be the most impressive and scary plane crash sequence in some time) in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.
What follows is a tale of survival, as only a few of the men lived the crash. Disoriented, hungry, and cold, the men must evade a pack of hunting wolves before the inevitable happens. It is here when The Grey becomes much more than you should expect. It’s like a Jack London story from Hell, where the psychological and dramatic tension between these characters and the wild build up to such a degree, that you find yourself not wanting to look away from the screen, even just to blink.
Based on the short story Ghost Walker by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, The Grey is a simply a tale of survival. Director Joe Carnahan, who has already proved how to enrapture us psychologically with dramatic tension (2002’s Narc), gives us exactly what we need to know about each man before over doing it. These men have been away from their kids, their families, and their lives for so long, that you can’t help but connect and yearn for their survival. Neeson’s subtle yet intense performance is his best in years, and the rest of the cast (including a surprisingly strong role by Dermont Mulroney) just adds to the overall sadness of their situation.
The video presentation of the blu-ray is simply perfect, giving the bleak color palette of the film (gloriously shot by Masanobu Takayanagi) couldn’t look better. The Grey includes a DTS-HD track that really gives the sound design a booming and sometimes haunting feel (especially during the plane crash). The commentary track includes Carnahan and two editors of the film, who mainly discuss the right choices they made for the film. Perhaps the most interesting discussion is their conversation about the controversial nature of the ending of the film (which couldn’t be more perfect). Also included on the disc are about 22 minutes of various deleted scenes involving more of the elements they must endure. While the special features aren’t all that special, this is still a disc that deserves a place in anyone’s collection and make you wish you saw it on the big screen.