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MovieMike's Movie Reviews (83)

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The Grey 
Gripping Survival Story
3/4 stars

A passenger plane returning a group of oil workers from a drill camp goes down in the remote Alaskan backcountry. A fortunate few survive the crash, only to have to deal with surviving the elements – and a pack of wolves. The script is derived from the short story ‘Ghost Walker’, written by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers. Jeffers shares the screenplay credit with Director Joe Carnahan (‘The A-Team’, ‘Smokin’ Aces’). The film has a familiar feel to it, initially, making me think of titles like ‘Flight Of The Phoenix’ or ‘The Edge’.

Filling out the lead role is Liam Neeson (‘Taken’, ‘Unknown’) as John Ottway, a company hired hunter who’s paid to keep wolves from attacking the drill sites. He initially pens a suicide note to his wife, but upon hearing the howl of a wolf he decides not to kill himself. Neeson is excellent in this his role as becomes the survivors de facto leader. Without coming off as authoritarian, he tries to get the group of survivors to work together and understand the depth of their peril. Also in the group is Frank Grillo as John Diaz, a hard-edged loner who continually challenges Ottway’s directions. Dallas Roberts (‘The Good Wife’, ‘Rubicon’ TV series) gives a strong performance as Hendrick, who tries to infuse some spiritualism and faith to help the group along.

Director Carnahan moves this story right along and manages to keep the audience on the edge of their collective seats - even if you know what’s coming. The crash sequence was really well done, and you can almost feel the bone-chilling cold the survivors have to face. While the gore factor could have been much higher, Carnahan wisely seeks to minimize this, leaving some of the carnage to the audiences’ imagination. Through flashbacks and soul-baring conversations, we begin to learn the back-stories of most of these survivors. As we get to know them, we begin to understand their attitudes about their situation. We also finally see the real motivation behind Ottway’s suicidal thoughts.

For me, the film is a winner. While probably not an Academy Award Best Picture nominee, ‘The Grey’ is the kind of movie that makes you think and should spark some absorbing conversations after viewing. Without giving too much away, it is indeed faith that is at the core of ‘The Grey’. The ending had most of the audience I sat with groaning, and in a knee-jerk fashion I felt pretty much the same. That is until I thought about the themes this film had touched on. [Note: be sure to stay until the credits have finished rolling] Most movies have the ability to entertain, but it’s the better ones that make you think. If you prefer a neatly wrapped ending, or having everything spelled out for you, you might not really enjoy this. However, if you’re intrigued by human nature and interested in examining how people deal with adversity, you should answer the call of ‘The Grey’. [1/28/2012]

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