The Grey (2011)
Dir: Joe Carnahan
Liam Neeson fighting wolves… Yes, honestly!
‘The Grey’ has been described as a “psychological thriller” and though that’s accurate, there’s a lot of physical survival to it too. When a plane carrying oil drilling workers crashes in Alaska, only seven passengers survive, and have to fight against the harsh elements, and a pack of grey wolves that are stalking them. Luckily one of those survivors is Liam Neeson!
A friend recently sent me this:
This is the film in which he literally punches wolves. However, it’s not done in a stupid way. Everything is nicely explained, you’re not left feeling at a loss as to why the wolves are following them, nor why they do certain things in their attempts to survive. Neeson’s character is knowledgeable about the wolves and their ways, but it’s not for some stupidly contrived reason like they’re his favourite animal or he watched a PBS special, rather that’s his job, shooting wolves that go too near the oil drilling site. This gives the film a really simple credibility.
There’s some excellent technical skill in the way this is shot, having to deal with the aspects of a plane crash that is genuinely jolting, including a wonderful bit where Neeson’s character is literally pulled from his dream by the violent movements of the plane which I found an excellent technique. Then there are two distinct opposites of bright snow-whitened day, and pitch black night. The nighttime scenes are lit by firelight, and this adds a beautiful hue to those scenes, and illuminates the actors very specifically, so that when they’re talking around a campfire you see little else than their faces and so your attention is very well directed on them.
Then there’s the way the wolves stalk and attack, picking off the survivors one by one. It’s not done in a horror B-movie way, the attacks are brief, quick, and realistically savage, shown mainly through quick cuts of close-ups so that it’s almost just a short sequence of flashes of teeth, fur, and blood. The rest of the wolf stalking is mainly through sound and shadowy figures, so that the wolves are rarely seen in full. This is both practical for making the film look realistic, but also very effective as they are persistently menacing.
The famous film critic Roger Ebert was so affected by this film that he had to leave the next screening he went to the day he saw it. I watched it just before bed… not advisable.