The Grey

“Once more into the fray.  Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.”

I watched this movie for the third time last week and I’ve gotta admit that it gets better each time I watch it. The majority of Carnahan’s previous stuff, with the exception of Narc and Smokin’ Aces, I haven’t really been a fan of. In case you didn’t know his filmography off the top of your head already (yeah, I’m a nerd, so sue me) he’s been behind the camera on several films, one of the biggest lately being “The A-Team”. I’m sorry to say that I hated it; HATED IT. Like to the point of not finishing it because I was so lost and just tired of explosions. Yeah, I said I was tired of explosions, I’m sorry. A man tired of movie explosions and one-liners? What kind of man could I be?

My favorite movies, the ones who stick with me, are the ones that have evoked an emotional response in me (See Fight Club, Vanilla Sky, High Fidelity, and American Beauty). Too often nowadays, movies are just a good way to kill a couple of hours. There doesn’t really seem to be much thought put into a lot of things that are making it to the cinemas now. I believe that the best movies out there are the ones that we aren’t seeing. I mean, seriously now. ANOTHER Big Mama’s House? ANOTHER Saw movie? Come on already. My wife and I volunteered at the Arizona International Film Festival this past year and had the opportunity to see some really good movies that probably won’t make it to your local multiplex. Very sad, really.

Anyway, I’m rambling. For those who don’t know the synopsis already, The Grey centers around a group of rough necks who are working out in the cold of Alaska. The movie doesn’t waste time. Only a few minutes in, their plane crashes and kills a substantial amount of people. This is only the beginning. Things go from bad to worse. Wolves show up, AGGRESSIVE wolves, and it becomes a man vs beast / man vs wild / man vs EVERYTHING story.

As the lead of the film, Liam Neeson (remember when he spoke of retirement? Doesn’t look like THAT’S happening anytime soon, and us moviegoers are all the better for it) does a great job portraying a man who appears to have suffered a great loss in his life away from this group and back in the “real” world. This sense of melancholy accompanies him for the length of the film. It also provides some of the depth to his character.

Like I said before, my third viewing last week really got me paying attention to a few more things. I’ll watch a movie one time just for the enjoyment of watching it. If something about it seems to “stick”, I’ll watch it again to see what it was I liked. If I’ve watched a movie MULTIPLE times, then it’s really got something about it that drew me in. The perk to multiple viewings is picking up on extra details you may not have noticed the first couple of times.

It really appears to me that Carnahan was going for something deeper with this movie, and even if I’m the only guy in the audience that got it, he accomplished it.

There are constant references to a higher power, as evidenced by the lingering shot of Ottway walking past a cross during the beginning scenes of the movie, the prayer that Hendrick says over the bodies before the group heads for the treeline, and even Ottway’s cry out to God towards the end of the movie. I’ve spent the better part of 2012 rediscovering my relationship with God and trying to improve, as a man.

I was interested to see Ottway’s interactions with a dying man on the plane too. He tells the man “You’re going to die, that’s what’s happening” in regards to his death. It’s a sobering scene if you really think about it. It was strange to see James Badge Dale in such a short, small role but honestly I’d hop at the chance to swap lines with Liam Neeson too, even if I was billed as “guy who dies on the plane of a horrendous injury”.

There are so many details that I noticed this third time through as well; the gas leaking onto the body buried under the snow from the airplane wing and the paw print filling with blood slowly after Flannery‘s death. Granted, I may be looking through rose-colored glasses, seeing as I loved the movie, but I picked up on those things and was duly impressed.

I liked the fact that, believe it or not, there were actually some pretty funny lines in the film as well. The humor in the film is realistic, yet subtle. Hangover III this is not. There are several lines that elicit a chuckle from the audience but don’t take away from the somber feel of the situation, if that makes any sense.

After reading some other reviews of this film (not to taint my own, but just due to my own curiousity), I was interested to see some reviewers saying the movie began to drag after awhile. I’m assuming they are talking about when things actually slow down for a bit and the characters get to have some deeper conversations about things. I humbly disagree; the meat of the movie lies in these conversations that take place around the fireplace after they’ve had the opportunity to slow down and relax for the evening.

Ottway explains how the Alpha male has put down a challenger, then IMMEDIATELY following this discussion has a throw down with Diaz. I had never given any thought to the timing on the first two viewings but this time around, I actually noticed the similarities (correct me if I’m wrong, please, in the comments?).

The fireside has a few discussions around it that I enjoyed. Ottway calls out Diaz and says “What’s wrong with being scared? I’m terrified. There’s not an ounce of shame in admitting it”. LOVED it; I work in a job where I’m not afraid to admit sometimes I get scared. Does it stop me from doing that job? No, but I’d much rather admit to being afraid than just deny that fear and do something stupid and foolhardy eventually.

The fireside is actually where we get a tad bit more “character development” as well. One of the reviews I read referred to the remainder of the characters as the “red shirts” of this film (come on nerds, you’ve gotta get that one!).

As a Christian who has, for years, struggled with my thoughts on religion and it’s part in my life, I completely could relate to Ottway’s screaming at the heavens at God and asking for a sign of his existence. After seeing everything he’s seen, he’s absolutely justified in asking for proof of God’s existence. We, as Christians, cling to our faith so tightly but what happens when you question it? Does God allow us some leeway to venture out and say “hey God, I really need some proof of your existence”? I honestly believe so. I’ve never been outright disrespectful of God, but after the death of my little sister, the birth of my son with a bilateral cleft lip AND palate (jackpot!) and the multiple tragedies I’ve seen other families face, I still struggle with my faith. Why does God let things happen the way they happen? I know that everything happens for a purpose, HIS purpose, but it still leaves you wondering. A coworker of mine is dealing with his two year old’s diagnosis of leukemia. What possible use can come of this situation? What possible good can come of the terrorist attack in Libya where several people were killed by an angry mob (yeah Obama, I called it a terrorist attack, not laying blame on some crap 14 minute film about Muhammed and deflecting blame on some idiot’s First Amendment rights)? I don’t know. As a human, I just have to believe that there will always be some sort of learning experience from these tragedies. Something good HAS to come from these.

I guess I can’t really put my finger on exactly why this movie speaks to me so well, but it just does. As a former Sailor and a LEO, I’ve had more conversations at 2 in the morning with male coworkers and friends than I can count and this movie just reminded me so much of some of those experiences (without the whole plane crash and wolves, anyway).

There’s no way to find out what you’re made of until you’re thrust into a situation like this, to be honest. I’d like to think I’d be more Ottway than anybody else though. I’m sure we all would hope to be more Ottway than anybody else.

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7 thoughts on “The Grey”

  1. It really is too bad that the previews hyped it up to be ‘Taken with Wolves’ instead of the harsh, man vs his own humanity vs nature.

    1. Well-said Sir. I had heard from alot of people who were disappointed but I thought it was one of the best I’d seen in awhile. I love the subjective nature of movies/books.

      The drawback is that people actually like Big Momma’s house and we may see more movies of that calibre haha

  2. Proves that, when done well, the simple tales are the best. I bet this was pitched to the studio simply as ‘Liam Neeson and some guys stranded in Alaska in a wolf kill zone. He gets mad and beats them up’. Studio promptly hands over the cash. Thinking about it, Neeson should have played Darth Maul in Star Wars. He’d have made a much better Sith than a Jedi. Who needs a light sabre when you can just strap broken bottles to your hands.

    1. The drawback was that everyone I knew was waiting to see Liam Neeson face-punch wolves and that really wasn’t what it was all about.

      On a sidenote, sir, I like your reviews on your own blog! Keep it up. The Raid was amazing and non-stop for sure.

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