What makes a great movie? In my opinion it is a combination of several things. A great movie will move me on an emotional level, a great movie will have really good acting that is convincing, and a great movie will have an overarching theme that gives the movie a deeper meaning then the obvious plot.
The Grey, a 2011 (majorly released in 2012) psychological thriller by Joe Carnahan, does all three of these things.
The Grey, with Liam Neeson in the lead role, is about a group of Alaskan oil workers who have survived a vicious plane crash and must try to find their way to safety. This sort of idea for a film has been done before but The Grey is able to take it further with the amazing performance from Liam Neeson.
In order to describe how Liam Neeson does such a good job I’m going to have a s few spoilers but knowing them won’t ruin the movie but read at your own risk.
Before The Grey went into production, Liam Neeson lost his wife in a skiing accident. When someone loses someone close to them there’s no real way to really know how their feeling. The Grey, however, gives us a glimpse into Liam Neeson’s soul. Ottway, Neeson’s character, is going through a deep depression due to the loss of his wife. We see him at the beginning of the film write her a letter before attempting suicide. The pain in his eyes is clear and a part of me felt like Neeson wasn’t really acting. He was using this role to help channel his feelings towards his loss.
As the film progresses and the plan crashes in the wilderness (by the way, one of the most frantic plan crashes I’ve seen in a movie) Ottway takes control of the survivors. The survivors come to find that they’re right in the middle of the hunting grounds for a pack of wolves and members of the party start to die off. As this happens the survivors begin to contemplate their own mortality and on the existence of hope. Some of them have hope and harbor memories of their loved ones, and these memories comfort them in death. Some don’t have hope and just give up. Some have the will to push on and refuse to give up.
In the end, only Ottway is left. It is at this point the we discover that his wife left not because of a divorce but because of a deadly illness. This is revealed as it is shown that Ottway has stumbled into the wolves main den and he realizes that his death is imminent. Instead of breaking down emotionally, he resigns to go down fighting and to make the last moments of his life have value. Then we see the scene that everyone saw in the trailer where Ottway ties some of the mini bottles of alcohol from the airplane onto his hands in order to break them so that he has a weapon. Then, the alpha wolf that had been trailing him the whole movie charges his. Before they meet, however, the screen blacks out. We don’t see the fight.
I know there was some people who were mad that we didn’t get to see the fight because the movie was sort of portrayed to be a Liam Neeson vs. Wolf film from the advertisements. However, The Grey is about so much more than that. The Grey is about having hope, cherishing those you love whether you still have them or not, and that every life has value and should never be wasted.
If you haven’t seen The Grey than I highly advise you to go rent it or to buy it. The Grey was one of my favorite films of 2012 and will be one I’ll keep in my collection for years to come.