Jan 27, 2012

The Grey

Think of yourself, for a minute, unable to move, unable to process the current test fate has began to put you through. Now switch your attention to this instinctual cry for life as your body reacts without a moment's thought or hesitation. Alien in nature, you watch without words as you fumble for an oxygen mask. This problem could have been solved a whole lot easier had you not been harnessed by not one seat belt, but two. For what is surely a danger is not the worst of your problems. Would you know it that not even a couple hundred feet below what is left of your chartered airplane lies a cold, white wilderness whose dark skies were lit up with the fireworks of what is left of your burning plane - many of your own kinds fate. God knows what lurks in the absence of scenery or in the frosted lines of pine because fuck faith. This wordless mantra of Liam Neeson's character Ottway is carved into his own frozen face through the entirety of the film until one of the finer flames decides to finally spew forth a riddance that is worthy of a crack of a smile - one of the few located in the bright hopelessness of The Grey. Boiling are these instances where decisions that amount to life's uncontrollable circumstances seem so sinewy and cruel. You've seen it before. Those moments where leadership must be presumed and the following party's favor is not-so carefully balanced. Had I been thrust into this very same situation, I'm not sure I'd know who to lay allegiance to, either, let alone possess the will to survive. Then again, this is The Grey's strongest weapon, not action, and certainly not taking action. If The Grey had to be akin to anything then I would have to compare its strong sense of questionable camaraderie with John Carpenter's The Thing, only replacing a hostile shape-shifting alien being with a animus wolf and removing almost any sort of weapon and replacing them with doubt. 

To briefly summarize, The Grey follows a small group of plane crash survivors, previously oil-rig workers, through the Alaskan wilderness while being stalked by a large pack of gray wolves. The largest step the viewer will have to take in order to accommodate a more comfortable and caring perspective on The Grey is to take a second to pause, contemplate, and eventually realize that the film will not concern itself with a multitude of cliche long action shots featuring wolf carnage. The trailer is guilty of making it seem like such a film, but there lies the portion of the budget reserved for the marketing campaign. With brief glimpses of men freezing to death with the creeping peril of feral beasts should come to the obvious realization that a virtually frozen man isn't the best man for a wild fight for his life. In these frigid conditions where mobility is restricted and where indigenous beasts of prey lay, the only thing one can really do is hopelessly run. Taking a stand is a fool's dream, though I'm sure wrestling with a furry predator and bathing in your own blood would be one way to escape the crushing cold of the weather presented in The Grey. For this and many other reasons, The Grey is careful with its steps, knowing full well that you were enticed by the spectacle of viewing the ever-so stoic Liam Neeson gearing up for a critical culmination of wildlife vengeance. It monitors the life of each contestant featured on this wild game (show) and extends the warranties past their expected due date. The effectiveness of the desolation is only increased by the main antagonist (s); a malevolent pack of wolves whose ground has been trespassed upon. Second weather to wolves and you will begin to see the harrowing implications of their crash and its site. Sure, The Grey does lessen the screen-time with the wolves, subtracting the once possible nature-run-amok aspect of this, but that is not to say they aren't involved enough. In fact, with previous expectations in tow, The Grey not only surprised me with the implied notion of the ever so watchful eyes of the pack, but also the course taken for full development of these contemptuous human characters. As for the wolves and their combined undomesticated omniscience, The Grey perfectly emulates what was done so well in The Ghost and the Darkness (1996); creating a smothering setting in which death paces against the grain of natural landscapes, making all sounds but rare sights.

In this day and age, when it comes to a film from Hollywood that boasts a somewhat unconventional premise, it always seems that politically-correct pitchforks are raised and whining fully commences. It would appear that nit-picking "petaphiles" have gathered up the slack left behind from our mostly satiated responses towards a harrowing survival thriller and begun to spin webs of slander towards director Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces, Narc) and actor Liam Neeson for indulging on wolf meat stew for preparation of "hate." It is true that Carnahan purchased a total of four wolf carcasses for use on the set on The Grey as to give way for a CGI intermission because, let's face it, digital animation only goes so far when attempting to garner authentic human empathy. For an example of the brashness and overall creepiness of the Internet com-plaintiffs, simply visit the IMDb forum for The Grey. All you really need to do is observe casual keywords, hell, even screen names (here's to you "mister_wolf"), for my point to be put across. To be succinct, The Grey is a heavy dose of malicious and arctic nihilism; it's a sad, sad cinematic creature liberated by only the attitude of the wounded and the altitude of the setting. For those who enjoy frequenting a couple hours worth of mind-numbing entertainment, you might find your brain to be hurting as experienced by a fellow co-worker of mine during the mid-night screening. I can still distinctly hear the aggravated murmuring and the ineffectiveness of the auditorium's doorstop ringing in my memory banks. The Grey should be seen, if not for the celebration of the archaic human instinct for survival, then surely for a condensed  lesson in masculine conditioning, which is quite rare coming from a film market that is mostly populated by liberal pussies. Take it or leave it, as is - The Grey is the best film to come from the early weeks of 2012 and that means a whole hell of a lot more than it should.



Soiled Sinema said...

Remained seated until the end of the credits.

665+1 said...

You've sold me on this one. "To Build A Fire" for the 21st century.