I was never excited about this film’s title, it doesn’t really say much and in certain corners of the world , The Grey has been renamed Wolf Puncher. That’s understandable: the trailer does, after all, go heavy on imagery of Liam Neeson facing a very angry looking beast. But Joe Carnahan’s follow-up to The A-Team is actually a long, long way from that over the top macho nonsense. This is a tale of men dropped into an extreme survival scenario, it’s best described as a meditation on grief and resilience. And if that makes it sound boring, it’s not. At all.
Here’s the storyline; a group of oil drillers are returning to civilisation when their plane crashes, stranding the survivors in the Alaskan tundra. It’s freezing, they’re lost and food’s running out. But their biggest problem is the pack of savage wolves whose ‘kill zone’ they’ve stumbled into.
As the film opens the other roughnecks on his oil-drilling crew are partying the end of their Alaskan stint, this includes the usual manly fighting and drunkeness. Our main character, John Ottway (Liam Neeson) wanders out into the snow, kneels down and puts a shotgun barrel in his mouth. For whatever reason, the howl of a far-off timber wolf changes his mind. One horrific plane-crash later, which is probably the best filming of a plane crash with superb editing and amazing surround sound I have ever watched, Ottway finds himself lost in the extremely cold wilderness with the local wolves relentlessly stalking him and his fellow survivors.
Like he did in “Taken” Neeson really gets into this role, whether he’s growling lines like, “I’m going to start beating the shit out of you in the next five seconds,” or quietly talking a man through his protracted death. You believe, 100 per cent, that this is the man you’d want by your side when everything goes to hell.
The characters of the group are really interesting, Ottway’s clearly the alpha male of the pack, while others, there’s an ex-con (nasty), a family man (wears glasses) and so on. The whole film tells the story of a grief-stricken man haunted by demons that just won’t leave him alone, trying to hold himself together long enough to make it out the other side.
Or on the other hand just enjoy it as one of the best survival horrors in years. This is a trip to hell, shot in freezing Northern Alberta where even the trees can kill. As for the wolves, they are a combination of puppetry, real beasts and 300-style CGI. They’re frightening, real and haunting, the true rulers of the tundra and whatever you do don’t get in their way.
If you realise that the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony are behind this film, it explains a lot. Think Alien and substitute a wolf and you’re close.
In conclusion, this is a surprisingly powerful tale of survival peppered with jump scares and heartfelt emotion.
This is a very good movie, I give it 4 stars, go buy it as you have to watch it a few times to notice everything going on.