As printed in the mX Thursday March 1 2012. Click to make big or just read the text below.
DIE HARD SURVIVAL TALE
Starring: Liam Neeson and Dermot Mulroney
Director: Joe Carnahan
You don’t need werewolves to make a truly scary movie - real wolves will do just fine.
That’s the premise behind The Grey, a plane crash survival movie where the odds are weighted firmly against survival’s favour.
Liam Neeson is Ottway, a rifleman tasked with keeping oil rig workers safe from wolves.
When a transport plane carrying Ottway and his peers crashes in the middle of Alaskan wolf country, the survivors must brave the wasteland while evading the territorial predators.
Warm, loving and friendly this movie is not.
From frenzied beginnings The Grey provides plenty of sound and fury. Imagine sci-fi Pitch Black shot in the style of doco-horror United 93.
By the time the number of survivors has inevitably dwindled, the mood feels much closer to Aussie movie Van Dieman’s Land - a contemplative exercise in facing impending doom.
If this film has any weaknesses, they lie in its supporting characters.
Very few of them are drawn to be anything other than fodder for the menacing wolf pack.
Talented character actors, including familiar face Dermot Mulroney, are very nearly wasted.
But it’s an easy weakness to forgive because The Grey deliberately distances itself from every other movie of its kind.
Far from the hope and optimism of all the survival movies you’ve ever seen before, this movie explores the other side of the coin - the downright nihilistic.
The refreshingly frank hero looks straight into the eyes of a wounded man and tells him, reassuringly, “you are going to die”, which allows the man to resign himself to the inevitable.
As the movie draws to its climax, you might find yourself asking which is scarier - men fighting wolves?
Or the same men embracing their fate when all the fight has gone out of them?