The Grey: Liam Neeson is gruff again

Trying to write on a hangover is always a challenge but I think I’m suitably charged mentally to scrawl something about The Grey which I watched on Tuesday evening. I had always been intrigued by this film, as for some reason I decided that I liked Liam Neeson playing hard-men roles; although I wasn’t as enamored as many of my peers with Taken.

The Grey has received a fairly luke warm 6/10 on IMDB which to be honest is a correct score in my opinion. The film starts with a typical morose and reflective monologue from Ottway (Neeson), and very early on we establish that he is a man on the brink. He’s writing a letter to a lost love, “I can’t get you back”, “I miss you” etc. It’s not until the end that we realise its true significance but a monologue needs to be tip top if it is going to open a film, and the writers of The Grey (Joe Carnahan and Ian Jeffers) are a little too indulgent in my view. By this I mean too many words, not enough thought or time spent. Less is more.

Despite Ottway’s extremely apparent depression he does have the ability to kill wolves with Raz al Gul ninja-like accuracy and we’re also shown that Ottway is clearly a very sensitive soul who is great at being on hand when people or animals are dying very slowly and painfully. A coincidence? I think not! This is highlighted again by the catalyst to this winter survival thriller – the plane crash – not comfortable viewing if you have a fear of flying.

Miraculously unscathed Ottway is on hand to rally the remainder of the rag tag band of uncouth and dangerous Alaskan oil works, and then sees one of the comrades into the next life as he slowly bleeds to death! Soon after the villains make their appearance – the wolves, and then the chase is on.

The Grey spends its entire 117 mins building up to one scene – the ending. It’s always great to have a strong ending but the characters are too one dimensional to keep the audience interested for the duration. Neeson’s character is a stereotypical cunning old fox (or wolf), speaking in gruff tones and knowing everything about everything. He doesn’t appear to have any vices and he stands out like a lighthouse when thrown into an adventure with much more dark and mysterious characters.

Sadly for old Ottway, his godlike powers of wisdom and survival only get him so far. As each of his comrades falls around him, he collects their wallets (so that he can summarily look at all the pictures of their loved ones) and finally drops to his knees in the den of the wolves. This wasn’t wholly unexpected but Rachel was hoping he’d survive just to take the edge of the relentless sadness. The last scene of The Grey was very moving for me; we discover that the woman we’ve been seeing in momentary flashbacks throughout the film was Ottway’s wife, and that she had passed away . This is contrary to the initial assumption that Ottway is wishing for a still living partner who left him for someone else. So with a solemn poem about fighting to the end and death, Liam charges the Alpha wolf. And then – FIN.

For me The Grey almost seems like it was written backwards, as if the final scene was thought up before the actual writing began. The film meanders and procrastinates waiting to get to this point so the glory scene could reveal itself in all its majesty. You’re not going to be challenged or inspired by The Grey and I would just as sooner watch the final scene on Youtube and be done with it!

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