Film: “The Grey”; Actors: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney; Director: Joe Carnahan; Rating: ***1/2
The world is inhabited by people who seem alive, but are really like zombies, merely existing than living. Many, bogged down by the weight of their pain, want to die.
Writer Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (of the short story “Ghost Walker” on which the film is based and scriptwriter) and co-writer and director Joe Carnahan put seven of these men in a barren desolate landscape, their brute masculinity in conflict with nature and its beasts – wolves – to give us a film that is a triumph of cinema.
After a plane crash strands them in Alaska, seven survivors led by Ottway (Liam Neeson) try to find their way back in the snow, even as a pack of wolves hunt them down, one after another.
“The Grey”, at a very basic, crude level, has got all the elements of a survivor, man-vs-nature flick: infighting men, ravenous animals, a near barren landscape, nature-vs- human nature and a flickering between hope and despair for both — the people in the film and the audience.
Director Joe Carnahan is a man in command of his medium. Thus, while you are wondering whether our protagonists will survive, rather how many and which of them will survive, he delivers something entirely else.
For the true question is not whether these men survive. It is whether their spirits do. The point is not as much about the survival of the body, as it is about the soul.
Thus, instead of assuming the survival instinct of his protagonists, Carnahan makes them question their very existence.
Out there in the wild, fighting for survival, the men are stripped down to their bare essentials. Their souls and their pretences are laid bare. And hopefully, so is the viewers’.
Depending upon how you look at it, the ambiguous ending makes for a perfect finale to a beautiful film. The sound and the stunning cinematography by director of photography Masanobu Takayanagi accentuate the atmosphere of the film.
Liam Neeson, always a director’s actor, delivers a power-packed performance as a man weighed down by the loss of a loved one. The other characters play their part beautifully as well.
Watch this one if you are a lover of nature and of films that are more soulful than mere survival films.