Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Grey Commentary

The Grey starts out like it is going to be a very disappointing movie.  Liam Neeson is writing a letter to his woman and having a huge crisis regarding the meaning of life and blah, blah, blah.  However, after watching it I realized that exposition was vital to the rest of the film.  Given where it goes and how the story unfolds, you really needed the aura of absolute despair at the start.

The Grey is not a basic story of survival like Castaway (which is a great film in its own right).  Unlike Castaway, there is an underlying philosophical message to the Grey and it took me a little while to figure out what I think it was.  I'm sure if the film makers were to read this, they would tell me I'm wrong but I see a lot of film as art and interpretation of art is all up to the viewer regardless of what the artist intends.  What I took away is that the Grey uses a story of basic primal survival to show the devolution of man.  Even though man has devolved to an almost animal state, we are still mankind and there is something that makes us different and better than the animals.  Whether or not you believe in a higher power, there is something about man that gives us morality and the will and desire to be better.  The concept of a higher power and character reaction to it is brought up in the film a couple of times and I was actually quite satisfied with the results.  As a religious and spiritual person, I am often disappointed in how this topic is handled in entertainment art.  But in the Grey, I thought it was done fairly well.

So, it starts out really slow and almost too philosophical.  But, once they get that groundwork out of the way, the story picks up and the real thriller starts.  Director Joe Carnahan did an absolutely fantastic job of developing a sense of tension all the way through.  Once the plane crashes, there is not one time where I felt like the characters or I could relax and that they were safe.  Through the use of tense music and wolf sounds, I always felt that there was potential for an attack on the group.  This builds right up to a very dramatic and fantastic final scene.  I won't spoil it.

The setting also lends itself well to the thrilling aspect.  A story of survival could be told almost everywhere.  But to set it in the absolute bleak and dangerous winter yet beautiful scenery of Alaska lends a juxtaposition that is hard to describe.  But I really felt that it added to the tension and watchability of the film (and it must have been absolute hell to film).  The actors also played a significant factor in making a fine thriller.  Liam Neeson is always going to be good and he plays the alpha male of the humans quite well.  But the rest of the cast was very strong and convincing in their roles.  Despair, determination, denial, etc.  It was all done very convincingly.  There's no cheesy line delivery which is a real danger in a movie like this.  Taking it all into account, the result was a film where I found myself sitting still, staring in wonder at the screen with my mouth open.  Normally, I have a hard time sitting still in any setting.  When a thriller can mesmerize me like that, you know it's good.

There are a couple of problems with the movie.  First, they have shotgun shells for a rifle.  That's just laziness.  Second, in a showdown with wolves, there seemed to be a lot of non-wolf related death and injury.  But I guess there's only so much you can do with wolf jumps, wolf tears off body parts, wolf runs away before the audience gets bored.  Any problems like this are minor and far outweighed by the whole film making package.

See it.  It is definitely worth your time and effort.  You do have to be in a bit of a philosophical mood though.  And I'd love to hear anyone's comments as to what message they got from it.

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