If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Warning! This review contains spoilers!
Greetings readers. I've decided I'm going to take a crack at written reviews instead of video ones. Reason being that the video reviews take quite a bit of time to create. Being a college student, I am not blessed with the gigantic amount of time that I used to have. Written reviews take considerably less time, and I can express myself more thoroughly through words rather than speaking, since my voice gets incredibly shaky while recording. So, without further adieu, let's talk about The Grey, a movie just released last week.
Synopsis From IMDB:
"In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders."
The film stars Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Nonso Anozie, Joe Anderson, Ben Bray, and James Badge Dale as the main characters the movie centers on.
The film was directed by Joe Carnahan, who's previous works are The A-Team(2010), Smokin' Aces(2008), and Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane(1998). Personally never have seeing these movies, I couldn't make a clear comparison of this director's previous films, most of which were written by him.
This film was also written by Joe Carnahan, and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.
Now that we're finished clearing what we already know, let's head into the actual movie.
The film opens with Liam Neeson's character Ottway, who is working as a sniper at an oil rig out in forsaken Alaska. He explains his position, that being protecting the other workers from outside threats on the field (such as wolves, and other predatory creatures most likely), and how most of everyone who takes these positions in this type of environment can not function in normal society. In short, quoting Neeson's character, "They are assholes."
The workers board on a plane heading to Anchorage, and we are introduced to the other characters, who are automatically introduced as stereotypes. Soon, the plane hits turbulence, which becomes much more as the plane looses power and crashes into the definition of a snowy wasteland. Ottway and seven other workers have to cooperate to not only survive the harsh conditions of Alaska's wilderness, but a pack of territorial wolves who find them as a intruders on their turf.
The film seems to have been advertised in the manner that it is an action movie. I blame this mostly on the fact of the other movies that Neeson has previously starred in. I had never seen a full length trailer of the film until after I had seen the movie, and the reason that I had wanted to see it in the first place was the fact that Liam Neeson was going to be fighting wolves. I am entirely guilty of this. Anyone who knows me can also guess that I am a large wolf-lover, so another point of seeing this was to find how wolves are portrayed in this movie. I can proudly say that I was satisfied with both Neeson's character, and the wolves he and his group have to face.
This film seems to fall under many different genres. It was advertised to me as an Action/Thriller. I caught it more as a survival movie, with suspense heavily implementing itself during. Some even call it a horror film, which I would have to disagree. Unless anyone is heavily afraid of wolves or canines in general, I wouldn't say that horror would be a large part of the viewing experience. However, that doesn't mean that there are not any parts to jump at. There are jump scares that happen throughout the film that are cleverly placed. One of them even happens within a line of dialogue, to which I had jumped a few inches out of my seat. My final conclusion to the genre is being a suspenseful survival film.
I had heard there were protests against this film for having wolves as the main antagonist of the film, which would spark the rise of wolf hunting, incredibly risky since a certain species of wolf had just been taken off the endangered species' list. Something people need to understand is that this is a film. A work of fiction. Not only that, but the way these wolves are portrayed is more in the manner of monsters; fictional beasts. There are some real wolves used in scenes, most of which the animals are running, which I personally felt was repeated stock footage. Most of the scenes show the wolves as either animatronics, or CGI created. The CGI wolves looked rather... ridiculous. This of course depends on which scene, and at which time of the movie, yada yada. When it is used in the right manner, these wolves look downright scary. The animatronics are used for close ups, which subtracting one scene from the entirety, look rather realistic. Like the characters, you get the feeling that you can't escape these animals. You are in their territory, which means that they know where every tree is in the area. If something has tread through their territory, they know how to find it, and they will be hostile.
The wolves are presented with the element of being supernatural. They are much, MUCH bigger than normal wolves are, and the alpha is most likely a mutant of a wolf, a bear, and a sabre-tooth cat. I'm being dead serious. There is no other explanation for a wolf being that large and menacing to look at. As for their behavior, most of the facts explained through the film the wolves' nature, is for the most part, true. They are smart enough to seek revenge, they can be hostile when needed, and their methods for examining higher ranking predators (such as the event in the film where the alpha sent an omega to test Diaz's ability to fight back) are entirely true. Hell, a herd of elk will send out a single female into the open to see if there are any predators or men hunting nearby. If deer can do it, why not wolves?
On the whole, even though these tactics are true, wolves are still skittish. If there is not much at stake, they will run off, even if it is their territory. These characters would be under more threat if they were up against moose, mountain lions or Kodiak bears, as far as realistic aggressive animal behavior goes. Regarding all of this, I can accept the wolves being more evil and supernatural. It adds a bigger adrenaline rush of fear.
The harsh environment plays as a character as well. From the point after the plane crash, the view of the desolate wasteland is absolutely beautiful. The mountains, the trees, the snow all provide images that would be perfect for calendars or postcards. Part of the beauty of the land though, is the fact that it is dangerous. The fact that men can't easily roam these lands without experiencing some sort of life-threatening event makes it as if man is banned from these areas. Low oxygen, avalanches, mountain tops, cliffs, risk of hypothermia, wild creatures. Picturing yourself stranded out where these characters are is something nightmares are made of.
Now let's get into the meat. The characters, and the story.
Ottway is a good character from the start. He bears a strong resemblance to Neeson's character in Taken. He's different from every one else of his caliber, and he knows exactly how to survive the situation or to get the job done. A bit of a Gary Stu, but in the grand scheme of things, if this character wasn't in this story, there would be no movie. All the other characters are hopeless, even Diaz, who shows more potential than the others to make it a little over an hour in the wilderness with these wolves running around. Does Ottway bother me? No. He's played by Liam Neeson. Of course I like him. He's got plenty of development and personality. Also, he takes charge. It's a direct contrast of the wolves and the humans, as Ottway proves himself alpha for the fact only that he can get them going and surviving. He's even challenged by Diaz, and Ottway wins because he's 'alpha.' In short, this character was perfect for Neeson, and I could ask nothing more.
Something I have to point out before I move on, is that the drama based around Ottway is rather depressing. Liam Neeson's wife Natasha Richardson passed away in 2009 while sustaining a head injury in a skiing accident. Since this happens to Neeson even in this movie(the passing of his wife/girlfriend), it provides that extra mile of sorrow that you feel once you are nearing the end of the film. It's tear jerking. I admit, I came close to sobbing. Not only for Ottway, but for most of the other characters.
One of my fears for this film is that the stereotypical characters would remain stereotypical, and they would be picked off one by one, and there is no emotional resonance with them; when they died, you feel nothing because you didn't care. This didn't happen. All of the characters, for the exception of one, I had felt an attachment to. They all had their distinct personalities, and I was upset each time one of them died. As this film is rather philosophical about the idea of death, the characters had represented a different interpretation of how they died. Do you need to pass from ignorance, the will to keep fighting, or just accepting fate as it is? As the group started off, it was simply by stupidity.
Personal note. I'm not walking five inches away from that fire, even if I do need to take a piss. It's Alaska, and it's cold.
You can interpret these characters by your own means, either if they were weak and couldn't carry on if they wanted to, or their death was meant to be. This aspect made this film sooo much more than I was expecting.
The story is very simple. It's just these guys trying to survive the Alaskan wilderness. It doesn't stray from much more than that. It's easy to follow, and there isn't much in the way of a twist. However, the way it's told makes it more interesting, which separates this wilderness survival story from the re-enacted reality shows like I Survived and I Shouldn't Be Alive(or whatever it's called).
Now for the final bit: the ending. The some movie goer would not like this ending. A.K.A., it's a cliff hanger. Just as Ottway is about to face the alpha of the wolf pack, in a mono e mono fight, strapping knives and broken bottles to his fist, the camera glances over his eyes as his father's poem is read out loud, and it flashes to black. That is the final scene of this movie. I know that my own family doesn't appreciate this kind of ending, so I wasn't sure if my parents would end up liking it or not if they saw it. (This movie is never coming to small town, AZ anyway, so I might not have to deal with that.)
I for one, love this ending. It's left up for interpretation. Not in the fashion of Pan's Labyrinth where you decide if she was a real princess, or she was hallucinating while she died. The Grey leaves you thinking of the story that comes after that final scene. Depending on what you believe the film is about, and what your impression was of it as a whole, you may think that he died without a chance, simply because Alaska's super-wolves suck and they are too powerful anyway, or you could believe that he did kill the alpha, and he was saved afterwards. My personal ending?
The ending that I thought of, was that Ottway was successful in fighting the Alpha. However, this fight was so severe, that even though he did kill the alpha, the injuries he sustained ended up killing him, and the last thought would be seeing his wife again. It might be a little cliche, but that's what I think happened.
I love this movie, but there was one thing that was missing from me wanting to marry it. I have no idea what it is though. I'm thinking it was possibly the one scene where they leap over a cliff to climb down some trees to safety. They lost a character, and it wouldn't have helped them anyway, except maybe an hour's worth of time making their way down the cliff. Did that make me hate it? Of course not.
Normal Rating - 4.5
Spill Rating - Full Price
I hope you guys enjoyed this review, and if you're reading this on Spill, this would be the first you've seen of me. If you have any constructive criticism, I am very open to it. I'd like to keep this as a positive hobby.
In celebrating my 19th birthday, I'll be seeing Chronicle with my family. I'll do a review of that too, simply cause I wanna do it. Until then, talk to you later.