Entertaining Peery, The Grey. Carnahan (2012)

January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I will go ahead and help potential viewers of this film thinking that the film is a “Flight of the Phoenix” (1965)/(2004) in the snow… with wolves. Heck, it is not even “The Edge” (1997).

Joe Carnahan seems to be taking a break from films like “Smokin’ Aces” and the “The A-Team.”

This film is not, in my opinion, an action/adventure film, as it is advertised, or a thriller as some have it billed. I would say it falls much closer into the metaphysical thought-provoker film category. Dare I say, Art film? This is not a bad thing, especially how “The Grey” worked for me.

The title alone, which is not referenced in film, made me think of the book, The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis which deals with similar issues that I think “The Grey” tackles. The book’s narrator finds himself in a shrouded, joyless, city: “Grey Town” very much represented by the night-clad and otherworldly oil complex where the film’s grim narrator Liam Neeson has exiled himself. After a short and ill-fated plane ride, the characters find themselves in the deep Alaskan/Canadian wilds, or they might as well be in C.S. Lewis’ Limbo.

With that said, while viewing the film, I didn’t take anything at face value, and most likely a different viewer will have a different experience.

Some aspects of the film I noticed that further reinforced my take on the film are the camera work and how scenes are setup. For a film set in a vast and harsh wilderness, the alienating wide-angle vista shot is simply not used, with first-person camera work the rule more often than not. The film is almost entirely shot in close-up on the characters. As the above average film student will know, this is to establish empathy with the characters and this is a film interested in how the characters handle their situation.

Carnahan also taunts a recent film convention, and one he has used often, in that the chatty comic relief is flat out rejected by the main character and is one of the first to leave the party. The humor that exists is human and does not feel like prefab one liners.

What the audience learns about the characters is what the characters ultimately learn about themselves in the course of the film. Once they learn this, they often leave the party. Hence, its not really about fighting the wolves. In a lot of ways the wolves are manifest of the human characters’ inner struggles and is reflected by the fights with the wolves being depicted very frenetic and shot too close up to see what is really going on.

Even so, the film does have an even measure of Liam Neeson bad-assery. Oh yeah, stay until the end of the credits! (At least I’m told there is a last few seconds scene, I missed it and can’t comment or verify.)

Rating: 4.5 stars if you like to think about what you are watching
2.5 if you are expecting a Liam Neeson action film.

by Josh Peery

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