Movie Review: The Grey- A Bloody Action Film That Has Trouble Balancing Semi-Conceptual Themes with Predictable Plot Conventions

Sometimes there are filmmakers who dare to bring a contemplative aura to their films in order to challenge the audience with large concepts, while other films never dare to tackle grand ideas and allow meaningless entertainment to unfold on the screen. However, then there is a grey area between the two (no pun intended) and that is where you’ll find Joe Carnahan’s newest action thriller The Grey. It’s a film that deals with fear, survival, death, and acceptance in a way that is challenging to normal movie goers yet is too conformist for an art house crowd. In attempting to balance this middle ground (or grey area…sorry couldn’t resist) the film is mildly successful mostly due to its riveting tension building sequences and a cast that carries this film where others probably couldn’t.

At the center of this cast is Liam Neeson who has turned into an unexpected modern day action star. This almost 60 year old actor has really broken barriers with his willingness to do the daring and though not all of his action films are very good, such as Unknown or The A-Team, he is still a force on the screen that demands your attention. While The Grey is no Taken, Neeson controls the screen with his confidence, control, and mostly through his eyes, which showcase a man full of emotions trying to restrain them all at once. He really has become a modern day Charles Bronson and that is by all means an incredible compliment.

But that doesn’t mean the film is without fault. It is tightly directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin Aces) but unfortunately follows a fairly predictable script. Though the film isn’t completely predictable it does sort of fall prey to its own conventional lay out making the experience a little less thrilling than it otherwise could have been. But perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good, and The Grey certainly knows its strong points and Carnahan’s direction brings those out in full force, either with an ear ringing plane crash or the fear of death in the cold night as you hear wolves howling in hunting anticipation. Where the film is weak in original plot (The Edge meets Predator) and dialogue, which is constantly vulgar and simplistic, it makes up for in carefully planned action sequences and tension building surprises that bring out your own fears and definitely your sympathies for the party who is trying desperately to survive.

And this idea of survival being the grey area between comfortable life and encompassing death is explored throughout the film. Each of the men express their fears in different ways and all have their reasons to want to survive (family, pleasure, etc.) but it is when death creeps up that reveals their true character. While it isn’t as high concept as a Von Trier or Terrance Malick film, The Grey is an admirable attempt to give a little more thought provocation to an otherwise unsophisticated or narrow-minded genre. The crowd who explicitly go to the theater for an all-out action experience will indeed be disappointed with how the ending is handled but will intrigue those who enjoy a little bit of contemplation at the movies. It’s just rather unfortunate that The Grey appeals to neither of the two spectrums since it doesn’t fully embrace either.

Overall, The Grey is an intriguing film experience one that you wouldn’t have expected simply judging from the trailers. The film tries to explore not only the acceptance of death but what happens in the moment right before it and is described as warmth that allows one’s loved ones to take them away. Unfortunately it only broaches this large concept as it retreats back into tightly planned action sequences, which are mostly enjoyable if it weren’t for the lingering sense that you know what is exactly going to take place. For a January film, which are otherwise known as the dregs of the studio releases, The Grey is an interesting film experience that won’t exactly please pure action simpletons or pompous art-house intellectuals. Ironically it is somewhere in between and hopefully it gives studios the courage to try and tackle more of these types of semi-intellectual action films.

Grade: B-

One Response to “Movie Review: The Grey- A Bloody Action Film That Has Trouble Balancing Semi-Conceptual Themes with Predictable Plot Conventions”
  1. nice review, I’m excited to see it tonight!

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