out of Five
Running time: 117
Enjoyable survival thriller with stunning snowy landscapes and a terrific central performance from Liam Neeson, but the CGI wolves are a little dodgy, there are pacing problems in the second half and the wolf attack sequences are disappointing.
What's it all about?
Directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc, The A-Team), The Grey stars Liam Neeson as Ottway, a bereaved and borderline suicidal hunter who's employed by an Alaskan oil drilling team to shoot the wolves that occasionally threaten their base. However, after a horrific plane crash that strands Ottway and six other survivors in the snowy wastelands, he is forced to use his survival skills to lead them to safety, keeping one step ahead of a pack of ravenous grey wolves that see them as intruders.
In recent years, Neeson has enjoyed something of a career renaissance as an action hero and he's on typically terrific form here as the grizzled-yet-sensitive hunter and wolf expert. Here you can see him dishing out chilling hard-as-nails threats when one of his de facto team gets out of line and punching wolves in the face (sort of), but he’s also not above sharing some painful memories of his tragic backstory around the fireside. Strong support comes from Frank Grillo (as cocky Diaz), Dermot Mulroney and Dallas Roberts, though the others are strictly wolf fodder and don't get much of a look-in.
For the most part, Carnahan's direction is superb, particularly in a brilliantly staged and utterly terrifying plane crash sequence that's probably scuppered The Grey's chances of being shown as in-flight entertainment. The camerawork is equally impressive, with Masanobu Takayanagi's chilly cinematography making the most of the stunning Alaskan snowscapes.
The main problem is that the CGI wolves are so dodgy that it occasionally seems like Liam Neeson is being chased by half the cast of Twilight. Similarly, the editing on the wolf attack sequences is extremely choppy, so it's difficult to tell what's going on.
On top of that, the film's pacing slows considerably in the second half of the film and the running time is at least 20 minutes too long as a result. In addition, it's fair to say that if you've seen the trailer for The Grey, you'll spend the whole movie waiting for a particular moment and the film frustratingly refuses to deliver on that promise.
The Grey delivers a handful of genuine thrills and is ultimately worth seeing for Neeson's performance, but the dodgy CGI and the frustrating attack sequences mean that it's not quite the film it could have been.