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May 28, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film | [ssba]

Review – The Grey

Liam Neeson’s inexplicable renaissance as a hard-bitten action hero is by far one of the most interesting developments in Hollywood cinema in the last five years. Following the success of the xenophobic, troublingly amoral Taken in 2008, Neeson’s been in demand as a scowling Irish giant gifted the particular set of skills necessary to fuck your shit up. Enter The Grey, the second collaboration between Neeson and director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team being the first). The Grey twists Neeson’s persona on its head, rejecting the commodification and cheapening of life and death that his other films wallowed in, and sensitively embracing a world where every death matters, where every life is worth fighting for, where every man makes his own faith.

It should be evident, then, that The Grey is not about Liam Neeson fighting wolves. Carnahan’s latest follows Neeson and
a ragtag group of ‘ex-cons, fugitives, outcasts and loners’–oil workers, all–after their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, making them the target of a relentless pack of wolves. Making it back to civilisation is their goal, but these men aren’t survivalists–they make bad decisions, they bicker, they get scared.

They don’t start moving because they’ve taken a holistic overview of the situation and think it’s the best option–they start moving because doing something might keep them alive a little bit longer than doing nothing. Trapped in a desolate, endless Alaskan landscape (chillingly shot by cinematographer-to-watch Masanobu Takayanagi) and pursued by the hyperreal, omnipresent, spine-chilling canine lords of the domain, the men turn to religion, to technology, to informed knowledge to find hope.

However, Carnahan doesn’t allow easy outs. The man who calls on God to save him will die just as easily as the man who calls on science, and while Carnahan is guilty of hamfisted symbolism to make his point, The Grey suggests that it doesn’t matter what you believe comes after this life; it’s about finding the beauty in the now, finding something to fight for, and going out on your own terms. Aided by a raw, powerful performance from Neeson, one of his best in years, and the phenomenally bleak cinematography and score, Carnahan has made one of the most haunting horror films in years, one that picks apart and genuinely speaks to our relationship with the greatest fear in human existence.


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