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Grey, The (Blu-ray Review)

11 May, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 5/15/12
Box Office $51.58 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.
Stars Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Gallo, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie.

Liam Neeson’s reputation for soulful tough-guy roles is put to good use in The Grey. Neeson plays a hardened drifter named Ottway, a hired gun employed by an oil company in Alaska to shoot wolves that get too close to the rig. With the job complete and thoughts of a wife who has left him, Ottway contemplates eating a bullet but thinks better of it and boards a plane home with the rest of the unseemly lot who had been working the fields.

When the plane crashes in the middle of an isolated icy wilderness, Ottway and the other survivors, seven men in total, must formulate a plan to seek rescue using what limited resources they have. Staying with the shelter of the wreckage isn’t an option when the group is beset upon by a pack of grey wolves. Ottway realizes they must be near the den, which the wolves will fiercely protect by taking out the men one by one.

The situation is inherently terrifying, between the prospects of a plane crash in the middle of nowhere, freezing to death or being devoured by wolves. The idea is best exemplified in a scene in which the group tries to hike to safety, is slowed down by a storm, and a straggler is attacked by the wolves as the others watch helplessly, unable to double back in time to help him.

An engrossing film, The Grey is relentlessly bleak but beautifully shot, as picturesque winter landscapes belie the dangers lurking behind the trees for those who underestimate the perils of defying nature. Director Joe Carnahan in the commentary track discusses the film as a character study about man’s will to survive, but also hints at it being a parable for those who would harm the natural world (represented in his view by the oil company) earning their comeuppance.

Carnahan doesn’t spend much time setting up any of the other characters beyond Ottway, which becomes the films biggest drawback when the murky conditions make it hard to identify anyone and reinforces the idea that they are basically wolf fodder. It may take a couple of viewings to sort everyone out, but the spotlight really is on Neeson, and how he brings to the surface Ottway’s quest to rediscover the motivating spark of his existence. Be sure to stay tuned beyond the end credits.

In addition to the commentary —  in which Carnahan is joined by his editors and a bottle of scotch, which livens up the mood — the Blu-ray includes about 22 minutes of deleted scenes that offer a few more insights about the other characters.

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