Hello, my name is Rambler, and I have a problem. I like to buy movies. A lot of movies. Sometimes I even watch them. This is one of those times.
I’m pretty sure everyone knows this by now, but you do not mess with Liam Neeson. He will make you regret irritating him with the most cordial and precise beat down you will certainly ever receive. It was this fact that delivered me to The Grey.
Like a significant portion of the movies I buy, I had never seen it before, but the box art — a close-up of Liam Neeson staring right through my shattered soul — was enough to compel the purchase.
You can’t deny the enchanting power of this staring you down while standing timidly in one of those claustrophobic Best Buy product aisles:
I knew a few things walking in to my initial viewing. One, the movie seemed to involve wolves, or possibly a pack of creepy, hyper-powerful, bloodthirsty lycans. I had the previews to thank for that delightful slice of ambiguity. Two, with the Liam Neeson starring, I was sure to see a plethora of people, animals, and possibly inanimate objects get the life beaten, kicked, stabbed, and/or shot out of them. Finally, Joe Carnahan of Narc and Smokin’ Aces fame was at the director’s helm. I enjoyed the heck out of Narc and absolutely loved Smokin’ Aces. Mix that all together and it overpowers the fact that Joe’s last film was the cute but decidedly underwhelming, The A-Team.
First thing I noticed after pushing play was the grainy look of the film. This isn’t your pristine reference quality blu-ray. It was bleak and dark and gritty. A film not of this generation, but one that reeks of 70’s cinema, and I loved it for that. Clearly this was as much a conscious decision as it was a necessity given the washed out snowscapes and night centric set pieces on hand. At any rate, what you are seeing is definitely signature Carnahan.
Taken at face value, what you’ve got is a well crafted monster movie. There’s a group of big, strapping manly men stranded in the remotest of woods. I won’t spoil anything but their journey starts with a bang… literally. Don’t have your speakers up too loud or they will be torn apart. For the few remaining men who survived this initial crisis, tension slowly begins to build as they start to get picked off by a pack of angry wolves However, they are wolves that seem to be far larger and more bloodthirsty than nature intended. It’s like one part slasher film with fangs instead of blades, and one part land Jaws. I am now scared to pee in the woods.
Don’t be fooled though, the narrative conflict screams man vs. nature, but the beauty of this beast is more than skin deep. The monsters are just window dressing for the internal struggle that is the heartbeat of this film. You see, our protagonist, The Liam Neeson, is dealing with the loss of his wife in the film and he’s not handling it very well. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one of the more touching and raw performances put to film in recent memory is knocked out of the park by a guy who had (to put it bluntly) recently lost his wife in the real life. Either he brought some of that experience to the table, or he’s a really good actor, or probably both.
In the end, this haunting portrayal of a man’s violent struggle with life and faith and what they all might mean is what makes this a film that should stick with you once the credits finally roll. It certainly wasn’t something I was ready to file away in the ol’ memory banks to gather cobwebs. As inherently over the top and preposterous the surface is, the internal conflict on display and the ambiguity of the ending were things I kept chewing on for days. And be sure to stick through to the end of the credits for one final scene. It’s well worth it.
Having stewed on things for a few days, I’ve decided that this film deserves a rating of 4 battered and bloody stars, and 1 pretty, shiny star out of 5 stars. I initially just gave the film 4 stars but it seemed to have angered The Neeson who was upset with my subpar ranking. Ultimately, he took those 4 stars out back and proceeded to beat the living tar out of them and told me I was next unless I came to my senses. After witnessing such a convincing argument, I was happy to apply a 5th and final star. It doesn’t really matter what my final rating is though, The Grey is definitely a film worth watching.Tweet