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Grey, The


Stars: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie

Director: Joe Carnahan

Tough guys don’t come much tougher than Neeson in this gritty survival drama, playing a glum, hard-nosed oil worker who describes his work as “The job at the end of the world” and his colleagues as "men unfit for mankind”. His job, incidentally, is to protect his fellow workers in Darkest Alaska by shooting the omnipresent wolves prowling woods.

After a slowish start establishing character and environment that actually works rather well to create the unfriendly setting, the drama kicks in with a vengeance when Neeson and his colleagues are flying home in a passenger jet which collides with a brutal storm and crashes.

Carnahan stages the crash with gut-wrenching effect: clever editing in this sequence is exemplary and hugely effective without needing to resort to more expensive disaster movie special effects.

Only eight men survive the crash and, led by Neeson, they start to drag themselves across the frozen landscape hoping to reach safety, a journey that becomes progressively more gruelling and frequently fatal. But the unfriendly snow-covered landscape and the howling elements are not their most potentially deadly enemies – a pack of wolves follows them, ready to kill and kill again…

What we have here is a tough riff on Jack London whose impact is vividly potentiated by British Columbia locations, effectively-created wolves whose prowling presence becomes more sinister and scary as the story progresses, dominated by Neeson whose tough, taciturn characterization perfectly suits the role while his sheer physical presence adds to its impact. While dialogue isn’t the key element in the screenplay (by director Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, based on the latter’s short story Ghost Worker) there’s enough in the increasingly bleak exchanges between Neeson and, in particular, fellow survivors Grillo and Mulroney to add depth to a story that is basically an action/shocker scenario.

Suspense, literally in a nerve-stretching sequence, as the survivors attempt to cross a canyon on a rope, is strong, resulting in a pretty powerful “and then there were none-style” brutally macho male movie with a post-end credits sequence that unfortunately doesn’t really resolve anything.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour by deluxe.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Jan 2012