Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Grey review; Liam Neeson fights wolves for two hours

Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors in Hollywood.  I enjoy most of films, minus a few outliers like last year's Unknown.  Neeson stars in The Grey this week; he plays a mountain man of sorts, roughing it in Alaska. The Grey is directed by Joe Carnahan, who worked with Neeson on The A-Team.  After a frightening plane crash, Neeson and 6 others must fight for survival as they march to find help.  Chased by wolves for most of the movie, the men must endure to try and get back to their families.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Acting
Neeson is great in this movie.  He plays a troubled man with an internal struggle.  As the movie plays out, we discover his internal battle with religion and the struggle with his wife.  Neeson can act with his eyes alone, and I found that to be the most intriguing aspect of his role.  The rest of the group are played by relative unknowns, except for maybe Dermot Mulroney, who is barely recognizable.  Frank Grillo plays a significant part in the film as well (I loved his work in last year's Warrior).  Director Carnahan also wrote the film, which highlighted some great character development moments for these actors.

The Setting
Alaska never looked so cold.  Carnahan and company put us right in the thick of things.  You can feel how cold the men are, you can feel the snow on their faces.  The scenery was amazing and so too the cinematography.

The Score
Simple and effective.  That is the best way to describe Marc Streitenfeld's score in the film.  With no extravagent action sequences to score, Streitenfeld keeps it simple.  The music is nuanced and fitting of the action on the screen.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Redundancy
This is a big pet peeve of mine, and this movie beat it to a pulp.  The entire film, the only 'villain' are the wolves.  I've seen enough survival shows to know there's a lot more to fear than wolves in a frozen hell.  Sure a few of the men battle illnesses here and there, but the overall arc is to outrun/outwit/outsmart the wolves.  For two hours, they must survive the wolves.  Silly and idiotic.  There has to be more to it than this.

I call it a minor spoiler because, if the trailer hasn't indicated to you already, characters are going to die throughout the film.  The way in which the characters die is also redundant.  They get eaten by wolves.  Some chased down, some while they urinate, some while they fall, enough already.  So stupid, it was reminiscent of the Final Destination films, except those were more creative than this.

The Character Development
I enjoyed the very few character development moments between the men.  Grillo plays a tough guy named Diaz who wants nothing more than to pick a fight... but why?  Eventually we find out his story and why he is the way that he is.  We find out what the men think about their families back home, about religion, about life.  These are the best moments, but there aren't enough of them.  Having a few camp fire conversations is not enough to make us care about the characters, especially when they're being killed off one at a time.  The relationship between Neeson's character and his father is explored, but only for a very short time.  I would have loved to learn how Neeson got into his line of work and why.

The Verdict:
Skip this mess of a survival movie
I did not like the film at all.  I know what it was trying to be.  Carnahan was trying to bring back some of the magic that threw him on the scene in Narc; The Grey is definitely not at the quality level of Narc.  In fact, it reminded me of b-level films that go straight to DVD.  I'm sure it was on purpose, but the production value looks dirty, grimy and low budget.  I enjoy Carnahan's other films, and adore Neeson, but this one was way off the mark for me.  My advice, turn on the Discovery channel for two hours instead.

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