You may have seen the trailer for The Grey and thought, its Liam Neeson fighting wolves, so it’s Taken in the snow! But it’s not quite as simple as that. Neeson plays John Ottway, a man who kills wolves to protect members of oil drilling teams in Alaska. When his job is over, he joins other men on a flight home. But they never make it, as the plane crashes after malfunctioning during a blizzard. John wakes up in the snow, freezing and confused, but quickly finds the wreckage of the plane and seven survivors. One of them is bleeding heavily, and John comforts him as he dies.
Taking control of the situation, he tells the rest of the survivors to help him build a fire or they won’t make it through the night. During the night, a pack of wolves closes in on the group, but as they stand their ground, the wolves disappear into the darkness once more. John explains that they may be near the wolves den, and if they are, the wolves will attack. The group must leave the wreckage, and head south if they are to save themselves, and they must do it quickly, or the wolves will claim their lives before the extreme temperatures do.
While all this sounds like a good idea for a movie, The Grey is poorly executed. The group of survivors all fit the clichés you expect in a movie like this. There’s an annoying one, a ‘who put this guy in charge’ one, an injured one, an ‘I have a young daughter that I love’ one, a deep thinking one, an alpha male (Neeson of course) and a first person to die one.
It’s not really spoiling anything to tell you that they are inevitably picked off one-by-one, and as you’ll know from the trailer, Neeson offers at least one wolf a square go, and even punches one in the face early in the movie. While Neeson vs. wolves is an entertaining concept, the script really lets the movie down. As I mentioned before, it is clichéd and tedious. There are a moments that make you jump, moments where the group turn on each other and a scene around the fire where each man tells a personal story about their families or experiences. Aside from having wolves to contend with, each dramatic moment in the film will remind you of other, better, movies involving a group of people trying to survive in extreme conditions and/or being hunted by a dangerous foe.
Despite the film’s flaws, Neeson gives a decent performance. He’s the only really recognisable face in the cast, and does most of the work, being the main man in almost every scene. Ottway is a man haunted by his past, and is determined to fight to the end, whether he makes it home or not. So to sum up, don’t watch The Grey expecting to see Neeson go twelve rounds with a group of wolves. It isn’t a terrible movie, but the basic concept has been done before, and better.