Liam Neeson has made his share of films and most recently he’s been logging in a few hours in the action genre. We got Neeson training Batman in Batman Begins, Neeson getting his daughter back from Armenians in the three Taken movies and we also got Neeson as Hannibal in the film version of The A-Team. Now, most of the movies Neeson has made aren’t bad; some are just movies he’s done to just pay the rent, but there is one film that actually resonates (in my opinion) down to soul. That would be The Grey.
Yeah, a regular person would read the synopsis and pass it off as Liam Neeson punching wolves. If you’re expecting that then you are gonna be sorely disappointed. The movie is much more than that. The movie comes at you and makes you ask yourself what kind of a person you would be if you’re stripped away from everything you normally rely on to make you feel safe (cell phones, food, sanity, shit like that).
The Grey starts out with a plane full of oil rig workers crashing into the snow in Alaska and everyone trying to gather what they need to survive. The survivors, led by Ottway (Neeson), do what they can to survive the cold and a pack of wolves hunting them as they try to get to safety.
As the story and its characters trek along, we get to see that the movie is more of a character piece than an action film. We get to know each character and see what’s beneath the tough veneer they put on when they interact in the regular world. With the supporting cast of Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Ben Bray – among others, you really do get the feel that these actors are playing real people and not just prey for the fucking wolves of the movie. One actor that definitely stands out of the group besides Neeson has to be Frank Grillo. At the time, Grillo was more known for his work in tv and small parts in movies, but this film you actually get to see how talented the guy is (he also showed us how great he is in last month’s Netflix movie, Wheelman). In his character’s moment of truth he goes from being a tough-talking macho, badass to a very vulnerable person you could possibly relate to if you were in the same situation. Not many people may not notice it, but Grillo hits a home run with this performance.
With a great cast there has to be a ringleader to shepherd the herd and that ringleader is writer/director Joe Carnahan. Having just come off of The A-Team (which was also an fbf a few months back) Carnahan really showed his chops and felt like he had something personal to say with this movie. The movie is not balls out crazy like Smokin’ Aces or even as humorous and slick like The A-Team. The Grey, like its characters, is stripped down and cold. Carnahan did a really good job with this film and it deserves to be recognized as more than just being a normal Neeson-action movie.
The ending has gotten alot of shit for how it concludes. You’ve got Ottway being the last man standing and you realize that he was walking into the wolves’ den the whole time. He recites a poem that his father taught him as a kid and he gets ready to fight the Alpha wolf. As him and the wolf jump at each other the movie straight up ends.
In his poem he says, ‘Live and die on this day, live and die in this day’ and with Ottway using broken bottles and wrapping them around his fists like Wolverine, there’s nothing more badass than that. You don’t need to know who wins this fight, all you know is that Ottway kept fighting even when you realize that there’s no hope. You gotta respect the movie for having the balls to end it that way.
Neeson is really damn good as an actor and this movie really cements that. With the reveal towards the end regarding his character’s personal tragedy the movie cuts even deeper. The Commuter comes out in the next couple of months so give The Grey a second look and see that this isn’t just a wolf-punching movie. It’s much more than that.