Neeson Dances with Wolves

I’m not supposed to swear when writing an article, but I will say this: I swear that “The Grey” is freaking fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And, to be quite honest, I was not expecting much. The trailers showed Liam Neeson running at an alpha male wolf in what appears to be the snowy, Alaskan wilderness. Figuring the wolves had just kidnapped Zeus’ daughter, and he was just using his special set of skills to take her back, I was ready to skip this movie. However, I will tell you this: I have never been happier to see a movie in my life.

The movie starts out describing who and where the cast is. Picture this: a bunch of Alaskan pipeline workers. It’s their last day on the job. They take a plane home. Plane crashes. That leaves Qui-Gon Jinn and the others stranded, in the middle of who-knows-where, with no hope of rescue. Cut to the wolves who want to eat people’s faces. Now, you’re caught up with the entire movie.

I’m always surprised at how awesome Neeson is. Unlike some other movies he’s in, however, this movie does not rely on the fact that he is the single most badass actor alive. Instead, this movie relies on the authenticity of the struggle which the entire group of survivors is going through. Director Joe Carnahan does a brilliant job of skillfully switching between the in-your-face style that is so often played out in Hollywood thrillers and the beautiful ambiguity of some of the situations.

A perfect example is the in the first five minutes of the film. During the plane crash, you never actually see why the plane went down. There are subtle hints here and there, but you never see the reason or the crash. Instead, Carnahan shows you flashbacks to Neeson’s (ex?)wife, setting up some important plot point for later on in the film.

While some of the special effects look a bit weak, especially when it comes to the wolves, most of the movie is beautifully done. Everything, from the crash site to the cinematography while the group traverses over a canyon, is done in a way that artfully transitions from beauty to heart-racing intensity.

As far as the plot goes, it is very well-written. A bit surprising, considering a great story is somewhat of a new concept for Carnahan, whose past movies include “Smokin’ Aces” and “The A-Team.” I can see why some people might think the plot where people are picked off one-by-one might seem a bit contrived, but I happened to think it just built the suspense. I really enjoyed the fact that I genuinely didn’t know who was going to live or die at the end.

This movie was, by far, one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Neeson was a beast in it. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell if I was watching a wolf or Liam. Important note: make sure you stay after the credits.

Rating: 5 out of 5