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It took me all of last night and into this morning to fully ponder The Grey; what it meant, what I saw, how I felt. I realized that was the drawing point of the movie, the reason for its success. It's not just Liam Neeson slaughtering wolves and loving every minute of it. In fact, I guarantee your idea of this movie is misconstrued, due to shotty trailers painting this film like Taken meets The Edge. I will do my very best to avoid any spoilers, read on my friends.
Ottoway (Neeson) is introduced as a conflicted, troubled man working for an oil company, protecting the workers from wolf attacks as they drill for liquid gold. The narrated intro drags a little bit to the point where you want to scream "just kill some fuggin' wolves already," but sets up our perception of Ottoway: a man simply living, with little purpose than to eat, sleep, and breathe; a man with nothing to live for. Once aboard the tiny puddle jumping plane, we're introduced to the supporting cast through subtle, yet blatant focuses on six side characters: Flannery, Hendrick, Diaz, Talget, Burke and Hernandez. Seriously, that's it: besides Neeson, we only meet six other men. Why so few?
Well, if you have read or heard anything about this movie, you know it involves a plane crashing in a barren, Alaskan tundra and the survivors' attempts to find help and rescue. I have to say, I've seen the likes of Lost, Castaway and Final Destination, but Grey's plane crash was the scariest, most intense I've ever endured. Focused on Neeson's face and ordeal, you really feel like you're there inside the cabin with him as the aircraft careens towards the ground at 400-some-odd MPH. My heart was literally leaping through my chest until the scene ended, but that was not the last time I felt my pulse thud against my skin; ohhh no, not by a long shot.
One of the things The Grey does best is thrill: you're always waiting for the next jump or wolf attack with incredible anticipation. It leaves you sitting and staring, praying you can pick up on cues and figure out when something will happen moments before it does; alas, very rarely are you granted that luxury. Watching movies and shows over time, my love for cinematography and pacing has overshadowed meaningless action and fruitless, unnecessary sex scenes (unless huge boobs are involved...huge boobs are the coolest). For instance, as amazing as the story lines are on Breaking Bad, I believe its genius lies in the beauty of the camera work. The same rings true for Grey, which utilizes a lot of close-ups on the characters faces to deliver a more powerful performance and connection with the viewers. We can literally watch as they struggle through thoughts and feelings, witness their turmoil as they fight to physically - and mentally - survive their situation.
I want so badly to tell you everything, but I know nobody likes a movie spoiler. However, this movie is far more self-examining and emotional than action-packed. In fact, the overall tone of the film is philosophical: how do you react to being completely, utterly stranded without hope? How do you face impending doom and despair? It really reminds me of another underrated classic, Valhalla Rising, which I know almost nobody besides myself has seen. Both films are rife with existential and, at times, religious motifs that cause you as the viewer to place yourself in the characters' world. That is the sheer brilliance of The Grey: everything is real and makes you put yourself in the situation they face. Even right down to the dialogue, which seemed corny in the beginning until I realized that it's done that way on purpose. These are supposed to be real, blue collar men in a real, harrowing scenario; a character's cries of "I can't f**king believe it, I was just asleep," post-crash was shockingly moving. One death scene was so realistic and depressing that it was the first moment that the entire theater fell completely silent, eyes glued to the screen as Ottoway did his best to comfort the guy.
All in all, I could not have been more pleased with The Grey. It was one of the very few times where I haven't seen every trailer and read every article prior to sitting in the theater, curving and narrowing my ideas on the film before the opening credits roll. And that's the truest way to see a movie: without any idea what's going to happen, being truly shocked by each scene and interaction throughout the film. Do yourself a favor: get out of the house, maybe spark a little something and check out The Grey. It's a wild ride and definitely won't disappoint.
SUMO Score: 9 out of 10
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