After I watched The Grey a week ago, I kept asking myself: what if I found myself stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with a bunch of roughnecks for company, ravaged by the cold, hunger and exhaustion, and chased by a pack of wolves — would I have the will to survive? At what point would I break and succumb to despair? Of course, no one knows for sure what’s going to happen until it actually happens. But I’ve got a sneaky suspicion I wouldn’t last long.
The plot of the movie is straight as an arrow: a severe storm leads to a plane crash, which leads to a group of survivors being isolated in the wilderness infested with wolves, which leads to the predators attacking the group and culling its members one by one, which finally leads to survival of the fittest (or most spirited) of the group. Simplicity of the plot, however, doesn’t take away from the story, which is told with great detail and mastery. In the centre of this character-driven tale is John Ottway (Liam Neeson), whose personal drama unfolds, as we follow the survivors in their man-vs-wild ordeal.
The Grey poses yet another question: what moves Ottway? At the beginning, he is determined to take his own life, because, as we infer from his flashbacks, he’s lost his beloved wife and is haunted by the memories of her. It doesn’t seem like he’s got a life to come back to. Yet, he puts his rifle down, when he hears wolf howls and recalls his father’s poem, which becomes a leitmotif of the movie:
Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live or die on this day
Live or die on this day
Ottway’s determination and physical strength sees him through the ordeal and even the final battle with the alpha wolf. The final scene — after the credits — suggests he’s survived. From online sources, I understand the battle between Ottway and the wolf was actually filmed, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t make into the final version of the movie.
In a nutshell, if I were the Academy, I’d give Liam Neeson “the best actor” for this role. The movie is definitely worth watching, that is if you are not scared of a big grey wolf.
And here is where the “wild” part of the story kicks in. Not only are the wolves in the movie portrayed as ferocious predators (which they certainly are), they are also heavily CGI-ed, and, as far as I am concerned, they don’t look like real wolves, rather, in some scenes, they look like nightmarish prehistoric dire wolves. (Truth be told, I’ve never seen wolves in the wild, so I might be wrong on that account.) They are also set on chasing and killing the prey that fights back and is not an easy kill, while they have an abundance of corpses left after the plane crash. We are also led to believe they might be doing it out of spite or revenge, and, as an almost afterthought — maybe because they don’t want the humans near their den (no pups in the den though, as far as I can tell). All I am trying to say, the wolves in the movie are not as convincing as Liam Neeson. They would get no Oscar from me.
As far as real wolves are concerned, biologists maintain the animals tend to be shy and avoid humans at all cost. As other top predators, they may still attack people, but in North America there were only two documented fatal wolf attacks on humans.
Finally, with all the bad rap wolves are getting, it’s good to keep in mind that wolves are essential to healthy ecosystems and biodiversity.
- The Grey Leaves You Thinking About Survival (blazingminds.co.uk)
- Spoiler Alert: On The Grey and The Punching of the Wolves – TIME (entertainment.time.com)
- 25 Questions: ‘The Grey’ (news.moviefone.com)
- The Grey: Wolves Near a Plane (entertainment.time.com)
- Normal Movie Review: The Grey (daysofdocs.com)
- ‘The Grey’ Survival Guide: Do’s And Don’ts In Wilderness Movies (moviesblog.mtv.com)
- The Grey (myhappydance.wordpress.com)
- Liam Neeson’s ‘The Grey’ is a mostly satisfying action film (csmonitor.com)
- Liam Neeson fights rogue wolves in ‘The Grey’ (abclocal.go.com)
- From Screenplay To Screen: The Grey
- ‘The Grey’ Director Talks Characters, Locations And Protesters