Friday, April 27, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Grey

2011, Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces, The A-Team) --- download

Once again I bring up that I like small focused movies and present this as an example.  The premise is just that -- small and focused, where we have a small group of survivors deciding to walk out of their air crash predicament and are hounded by hungry wolves the entire way.  That is it, just the walking and surviving.  And of course, the weather, the grey bleak northern clime that gives the movie its name. 

Liam Neeson does these movies so well, wrapping himself up in a character whose emotional landscape is also the reason for the movie's title. He is a man at the end of his life, at the end of the world, in a drilling camp somewhere we assume must be northern Alaska but would have been better suited if set in remote Nunavut.  He has lost someone, someone he loved and cannot live without. But his suicide is interrupted by his job in the camp, the defense of the men, against wolves. These are not the fuzzy, wuzzy wolves we have been raised with, those that are more afraid of men than they are a danger.  These are the Big Bad Wolves of German forests who eat people and carry an evil, cunning with them. The interruption gives him a reprieve and sits him on a plane flying south, taking the hard, dangerous and angry men who work the camp. But then the plane crashes and these men find out exactly how not hard they are.

The ensuing walking battle between the survivors of the plane crash and the huge dark, mostly CGI wolves is not remotely realistic.  These are monsters, not pack running mammals of the Canadian wood.  Their growls echo loudly in the hills, even more haunting than their howls.  Their attacks are timed with deadly precision, more cunning than the men can conceive.  But Neeson's Ottway knows these wolves, fearing and respecting them where the others walking with him are just set dressing, showing just how little mankind controls this wilderness. They are loud, violent and despairing fools given only the role to die under teeth and claws.  Only Ottway is destined to survive, a man who defies his own desire to die not so much that he wants to live but for the simple fact he has been given a choice of how he will die, repeatedly quoting his father's poem, "Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I'll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day."