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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Grey’ cast packs more than action flick punch

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    “The Grey” is far from the red-blooded American fistfight its marketing team would have you expect. But don’t let that deter you. The film, about a team of oil drillers stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash, is immensely entertaining, and at times even heartbreaking. More a gritty character piece than an action romp, director Joe Carnahan’s latest effort proves to be yet another surprisingly first-rate entry into his strangely impressive oeuvre.

    The story is simple and Carnahan knows it, so he wastes no time getting to the point: John Ottway (Liam Neeson) is an oil rig worker — scratch that, a bearded oil rig worker — whose job it is to kill any creature that intrudes on company ground. A minute or two of exposition, then he hops on a plane, the plane goes down, and he wakes up in the icy tundra with a motley crew of six other survivors (scratch that, bearded survivors), each of whom is processing the crisis in his own way.

    It’s clear almost immediately that the crew has landed in wolf territory and will be forced to fend off the hungry pack as they make their trek toward civilization. The wolves attack from time to time, and the men’s numbers dwindle. That’s pretty much it. And it’s very, very good.

    What elevates “The Grey” beyond its premise is the work Carnahan and co-writer Ian Jeffers have clearly put into their characters. Each member of the crew — from Neeson’s alpha male to Nonso Anozie’s quietly determined invalid to Frank Grillo’s pushy but well-intentioned braggart — has his own unique voice, his own redeeming character arc, and thus his own reason to be sincerely cared about (and in the event that he should die, missed). This is less Neeson’s film than it is the whole ensemble’s, and the players are all up to task, each turning in a performance that does its part to keep the story alive.

    “The Grey” only falters in its tendency toward preachiness, sometimes aiming for commentaries that aren’t so much unwelcome as they are unimportant. The Rockstar Energy Drink crowd will likely groan at the ending, which opts for sentiment over savagery, though there’s plenty of creative violence to keep them quiet throughout the rest of the film.

    If anything else, “The Grey” is worth the price of admission for the plane crash sequence alone, which is one of the more intense scenes on the silver screen in years. As long as you don’t go in expecting a Schwarzenegger flick, you’ll likely leave the theater impressed by how “The Grey” ended up being as good as it did.

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