Written by Lee Clifford
Okay, first thing I want to say: audiences in my town are idiots. There, I said it. Why do I say that? Because people can’t handle movies that dare to be realistic!
Yes, this is a sign that there will be spoilers.
The Grey focuses around John, a gunman who works for a petrolium company in Alaska, his job is simple: when wolves make a move to attack the workers, he shoots them.
John is a man seeming to be battling demons of a past that haunts him. He opens the film writing a letter to his wife, mentioning that she left him and how he knows his letter will never reach her but he writes anyways. He carries on to enlighten the audience about life at the camp where the petrolium is drilled, deeming himself among men “unfit for society”.
One fateful evening as the workers climb aboard a plane to take them the Anchorage for some leave time, the plane crash lands in the middle of nowhere; here begins the adventure of John and the men he protects for a living. The conditions are harsh, people are injured, and chances of rescue are slim; and just to add to the troubles there can be wolves heard in the night. John and the men are given no alternative but to begin a trek to civilization before elements and the wolves claim them.
The Grey is slow and deliberate; yes there’s wolf-chomping but that’s not the main focus of this story, the focus is on the men and the development of their characters as they need to rely on one another if they hope to survive. I really like how this is handled, as it’s not immediate friendships developed in the face of adversity, these people act like real people: there’s people arguing to take charge while others throw out thoughts of what they think everyone should do while others willingly wait for instructions from someone who’ll take charge as yet others just sit back and do nothing but criticize the situation and those they’re stuck in it with. This is a very intriguing character study that really reminds me of characteristics in the book Who Moved My Cheese.
There are scenes of action to sate the thirst of those who can’t handle heavy doses of exposition and character development, but it’s still handled in a realistic way; a battered hero won’t suddenly catch that second wind and rescue everyone, when someone’s hurt, they’re hurt, when someone’s scared, they’re scared. The entire story is handled in a realistic light as it unravels and we learn more about these characters.
Another interesting writing note, in my opinion, is the way faith is handled. Despite the profanity-laiden script I have a feeling that the writer is a person of faith as it’s pointed out in the film that, in true human nature, how often do we give thanks for the blessings no matter how small they may be, but have no problem shaking our fists at God when things are bleak. Maybe it’s because I’m a person of faith myself but I found it was an interesting social commentary that personally struck close to home for me.
A large complaint I’ve heard about this movie is that it’s too dialogue-heavy, but I truly think it’s intentional. The viewer is pulled into the story and you honestly begin to feel the mental exhaustion these men are going through as there never seems to be an end to the terrifying ordeal in front of them; by the end I was emotionally exhausted and will admit that as John’s backstory came fully to light and his tale came full circle, I definitely shed a few tears.
This movie isn’t very effects-heavy. It has some special effects as the plane is being torn apart in the crash and a few “oh crap” over cliff moments but otherwise the film is clearly used with real pieces and elements, assisting in the sensation that this is really happening and it helps draw the audience even more into the story.
Much like the visual effects, there’s not a lot of glamour and glitz done with the audio effects; sounds are what they should be and never over-exhaggerated.
The music is also very proper as well; if you’re expecting the next memorable Hollywood hero anthem, this movie isn’t going to give it to you. The music captures the emotions and sensations of the story, but many of the emotions are that of dread and hopelessness; yes the music properly serves up the occasioan moments when there’s a small glimmer of hope, but with such a heavy story, the music does a perfect job of conveying what the survivors are going through.
To my opening statement, I was very disappointed in the audience reactions to this film. The film goes through its entirety in a realistic way, treating the characters and situations like they would be played out if this was really happening. As the lights came up and the kids in front of me proclaimed “yo that sucked!” and the senior couple leaving ahead of me muttered “that was dumb, I hated it” then proceeded to yell at a theatre employee for showing a movie with that kind of ending, it made me feel sad that a movie that dared to be real would be met with so much disdain; seriously, were these people expecting a sudden final act hail Mary that would defeat the purpose of two hours of realism? This is a movie that takes a big risk and doesn’t have all the heroic and romantic elements of a light and fluffy film that we’re so accustomed to and it breaks my heart that it will no doubt be met with condemnation from audiences and critics; before writing this review I just checked some other reviews out of curiousity just to find that a large majority are giving this film twos and threes; thankfully some people do seem to get what this movie was going for and did see a nine on one website who seems to share my thoughts on this narrative.
This isn’t your happy-go-lucky adventure movie where everyone becomes BFFs and get through unscathed, this is a spot-on social commentary about humans as a species, what makes us strong and what makes us weak. It’s a story that slaps the audience in the face with reality and says “this isn’t an exciting adventure, this is desperate survival” and it’s done brilliantly through great acting and captivating writing. If you’re expecting a heroic Hollywood happy adventure, I would suggest you look elsewhere, but if you’re up to the challenge of an emotional endurance trial that goes at a deliberate and effective pace, then see this movie.