The Grey refreshing take on survival-horror genre
A refreshing take on the survival-horror genre and – thankfully – one without zombies or diseases, The Grey provides an intimate movie experience that examines the will of human survival while featuring a handful of likable and well-developed characters.
The film is based on the short story “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, who also co-wrote the screenplay, revealing a pattern that suggests most films in the 21st century are based on adaptations.
The Grey director Joe Carnahan captures the harshness of the Arctic as well as the intimacies of personal struggles facing each character. By using the “handycam” technique with effectiveness, Carnahan shows a promising future for screenwriting.
Ultimately, The Grey is much more complex than some of his previous work such as his screenplays for The A-Team and the Smokin’ Aces franchise.
As the hard-shelled protagonists dwindle in number, the audience is exposed to each of their lives pre-disaster, mostly shown through a reminiscing campfire scene, where each gives a story (raunchy sex tale included) about their pasts. The scene ends with the main protagonist, gruffly played by Liam Neeson, looking off into the distance.
The threat force behind the players is a more realistic dealing than most survival stories: the set up is that a group of criminals are flown away to do an unnamed job. After crashing in or around Alaska they are faced with the challenge of surviving a large pack of blood-thirsty wolves, along with bitterly cold weather conditions and lack of direction.
The Grey is enjoyable because the characters are likable (even the stereotypical antagonist, played by Frank Grillo) and are well developed through dialogue and flashbacks, as the audience can see them struggle, all leading to the film’s ambiguous ending.
Throughout the film, the protagonist lives by a poem once rehearsed by his drunken Irish father, which fits nicely into the ending, as the poems line “Live and die on this day” correlate directly with the action taking place on screen. It humanizes and provides motivation for Neeson’s character John, who is otherwise a bit of a blank slate.
For all of the introspective flashbacks, the audience never really gets to know who John is but we find out he is questioning his faith and battling depression. The ending may sour some experiences but fits well with the established prophetic tone that the film maintains. The Grey is a tense, bleak, well-developed and enduring film – and not in a bad way.