Irish actor Liam Neeson has been carving out a niche in his last few films as a tough-guy-with-a-heart and it seems to be working well for him (most powerfully in 2008's Taken). Is Neeson becoming the new Harrison Ford? Like that Hollywood icon, he has mastered the ability to serve up intense looks, conveying a wide range of emotions with few words.
He continues on this convincing rough-and-tumble road in The Grey, a gripping story of survival and clashing male egos forced to work together after a devastating plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness.
Liam Neeson stars in The Grey; Photo Courtesy of Open Road Films
Directed by Joe Carnahan (who also directed Neeson in the film version of The A-Team), Neeson plays Ottway, an unlikely leader of a roughneck oil drilling team struggling against a desolate, unforgiving Alaskan tundra, and a cunning, aggressive pack of wolves, determined not to let their newly arrived meals get away.
Ottway begins by reflecting on his own life -- the loss of a past love and questions about where he will end up. He is not one to beat around the bush, choosing instead to confront things head on. When it is clear after the plane crash that a co-worker is dying, he announces it to everyone. In an attempt to comfort the dying man he asks him, "Who do you love?" encouraging him to think of that person as his life slips away.
The film's opening shots of Alaska's steely beauty offer up an eerie calm, a misleading calm before a life-changing storm. As the group braves the elements in search of food (which eventually involves a wolf carcass) and shelter, their fears and shortcomings start to show. The wolves take advantage, learning to strike successfully at moments of weakness. This story is not only man vs. the elements, but man vs. animal, as well, which in turn, brings out the animal in the men.
Time, however, is working against them, including the overtly macho Diaz (Frank Grillo); the strong-yet-sensitive Talget (Dermot Mulroney); and the easy natured but tough-as-nails Henrick (Dallas Roberts). If they don't move away from the wreckage to find food and shelter, they will freeze to death -- or become easy meals for the hungry wolves.
The film's sound design is excellent. The extreme aural sensations of the plane crash, the fierce Alaskan winds and the growls of hungry, fighting wolves, strike your ears and body with concentrated force; more than merely watching this film, it is as if you are there.
The Grey is a shock to the system, but one to be enjoyed by those that favor suspense. There are moments of humor and edge-of-your-seat thrills, all of which hold your attention.
The Grey opens in theatres nationwide on January 27th.