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‘The Grey’ a chilling, thoughtful thriller

Article Published: Jan. 31, 2012 | Modified: Feb. 9, 2012
‘The Grey’ a chilling, thoughtful thriller

Liam Neeson stars in 'The Grey.'

“I will look for you. I WILL find you. And I will kill you.”

It’s an intense Liam Neeson line from “Taken,” and I’ve been using it – and its many variations – liberally while working on my intense Liam Neeson impersonation.

I assume my friends’ repeated sighs are proud acknowledgments of my efforts, like after seeing the trailer for “The Grey.”

“I will look for it. I WILL watch it. And I will review it.”

Unlike “Taken,” it’s not the sort of movie you’ll quote for days, or even years afterward, but rather the type that lingers in the mind indefinitely after that last credit crawls.

“The Grey” is a taut, white-knuckle thriller that balances survival adventure with an unexpected, plentiful helping of existentialism.

Liam Neeson (“Unknown”) is Ottway, head of security for an Alaskan oil-drilling team. While en route to Anchorage, their plane crashes in the barren wilderness, decimating their numbers and leaving a dwindling number of survivors.

With no hope of rescue, Ottway takes the lead and formulates a plan for survival, which is interrupted by a pack of unusually vicious timber wolves.

It appears the plane crashed smack dab in their territory, making each and every survivor fair game and their hope for salvation all the more desperate.

The survivors attempt to elude their predators and travel south – toward what, they don’t know – and come face to face with their own mortality. As their situation grows increasingly dire, they begin to question life, faith and fate. Can one face death with bravery and grace? Must faith be earned? Were they fated to survive the crash and to what purpose?

They know their demise – soon or eventual – is inevitable, and the wolves, stalking in the shadows, are its manifestation.

Shot in the splendorous wilderness of British Columbia, Canada, the scenery is gorgeous, yet at the same time foreboding, and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi’s (“Warrior”) impressive framework can leave the audience feeling outright chilly. It’s also one of the few recent releases where the handheld camera technique actually works, effectively – and uncomfortably – placing viewers in the hellish position of its protagonists.

The crash scene and its aftermath are some of the film’s most powerful moments, as the survivors begin to realize the gravity of their situation. A scene in which Ottway consoles a dying passenger is heart-stopping, establishing a heavier tone for a film otherwise advertised as an action-adventure.

Neeson’s performance as the human alpha male is nothing short of spellbinding. Ottway exudes a thoughtfulness bound by pragmatism, and his grim acceptance of matters beyond his control, mixed with a flicker of hope and just a tinge of sentimentality, makes for an inner conflict that Neeson masterfully conveys on screen.

For director Joe Carnahan, “The Grey” is somewhat of a departure, allowing him to express a depth in filmmaking absent in his previous efforts, like, say, “The A-Team” or “Smokin’ Aces.”

Carnahan co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Mackenzie Jeffers (“Death Sentence”), who wrote the short story, “Ghost Walker,” on which “The Grey” is based. It’s a solid collaboration, despite one or two instances of seemingly forced dialogue.

It’s also worth noting that “The Grey” is a work of fiction, and timber wolves aren’t known to behave as such in actuality. In other words, while certainly dangerous, they aren’t the bloodthirsty, voracious, man-eating manifestations of death as seen in the film.

That said, it could easily do to camping what “Jaws” did to swimming. At the very least, it offers yet another use for airplane bottles around the campfire.

“The Grey,” rated R for violence/disturbing content, including bloody images, and for pervasive language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit Also, be sure to stick around through the credits for this one.

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