Gary Paulsen teenage coming of age story Hatchet always fascinated me.
The idea that someone could survive against all odd when trapped in the wilderness, despite extreme cold, lack of supplies and the harsh reality of Mother Nature was inspiring.
Starring Liam Neeson, The Grey shows the brutal truth that Hatchet never did – nature is unforgiving.
A group of workers from an oil pipeline are on a trip into Anchorage when their plane crash lands in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. The handful of survivors must rely on the experience of Ottway (Neeson) to face the harsh elements and territorial wolves.
The result is a frightfully involving movie. The amount of character development and internal narrative from Ottway puts the audience in the plane, absorbed in the traumatic sights and sounds.
The film becomes more personal as it takes a believable path from beginning to end. The bitter cold feels close and the panic run from angry wolves is terribly stressful.
To enjoy the powerful camera shots, score and plotline, it’s important to distance the film from Neeson’s most recent success, Taken. Many, including myself, went into the movie after seeing the action packed preview, promising that the 59-year-old action star would duke it out with nature.
While he does, it’s not in the way that’s expected. His performance is as good as ever and as chilling as the tundra he’s stranded in, but it’s not the action-packed thrill ride that many wanted. But, instead of disappointment, viewers should be pleasantly surprised.
What is on screen is better. It’s not a contrived tale of survival, making it through the not-so-tough wilderness alive. The Grey is a story about life, told within the confines of gruesome, emotional death.
The sobriety that begins the movie and carries the story conveys an important truth about living and the importance of life. The personal stories of the lawbreakers, deviants and lowlifes with Ottway give a new perspective and clash with the harsh beauty of the surrounding area.
Through the wonderful imagery, poignant music (with many similarities to a typical horror film) and brilliant lead acting by Neeson, the movie surpassed my expectations of Taken, but with wolves.
Many may find the ending harsh and anti-climactic, but if you look closer, you’ll find that the ending is the finishing touch to the tense two hours that preceded. But, if you’re looking for something more, a second long clip that’s worth waiting for follows the end credits.
Despite its many shortcomings, The Grey was creates a fear of the coming Minnesota winter, wolves or no.