The Grey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2012, 12:00am


Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Delmot Mulroney
Director: Joe Carnahan
Category: IIB

Who would have thought that Liam Neeson would, in his late 50s, become a de rigueur presence in high-octane audio-visual spectacles?

His career-transforming turns in Taken and The A-Team might have startled many, but The Grey lets him flex his acting and action-hero muscles, in Joe Carnahan's gripping thriller with a philosophical subtext.

But first things first: one of the film's more distracting flaws is its under-par computer-generated imagery, with its digitally produced grey wolves - the animals which spur the story as they stalk and hunt down a group of air-crash survivors across the snowy outback of Alaska - coming out pretty fake.

Then again, these predators are only a backdrop to the actual fight against an existential greyness which led them to jobs at a petroleum refinery 'at the end of the world', as the lead character, John Ottway (Neeson), puts it in a voiceover at the beginning of the film.

His monologue is heard over images of the gloomy plant, as Ottway tells how the place is populated by 'men unfit for mankind' - a description brought vividly to life through the workers' rowdy behaviour as they settle into a small plane. True to genre rules, the gung-ho talk is a harbinger of pending disaster - an event which leaves Ottway and some of his co-workers defy the harsh weather and the pursuing grey wolves as they seek to return to civilisation.

The pack of survivors are the typical crew of conflicting personalities - with Ottway's antagonist taking the shape of the cynical John Diaz (Frank Grillo). Of course, confessions and reconciliations of sorts are always on the cards.

While the film always hints at that final showdown between man and beast, The Grey is as engaging when the focus shifts towards the men's struggle against their own beastly instincts and the regret and guilt emerging out of that.

Ottway is heard reminding his companions that the wolves' aggression stems from a sense of defence against intruders of their territory. 'You're not the animals - we're the animals,' shouts Diaz after yet another frantic confrontation with the wolves - and it's a line which rings true.

The Grey opens today