Taken with wolves, this film is not. This is a bleak, uncompromising tale of survival of a group of men in the Alaskan wilderness. Unfortunately, the film suffers from an overlong 3rd act and an abrupt ending which makes the film’s climax anticlimactic.
The Good (Spoiler Alerts)
This film was made to showcase Liam Neeson‘s talents. He gives a brutally powerful performance, as well as hints of vulnerability and despair.
The cinematography and the production design is amazing. Extreme close-ups, hand-held shots, and the abundance of icy-cold white colors in the scenes of the icy wasteland really serves their purpose. The extreme close-ups highlight the actors’ performances (as this is more of a character study rather than plot driven). That and the hand-held shots heighten the tension. And the setting in the icy wastelands of Alaska strikes me as quite Dante-esque (the 7th circle of Hell is frozen). These characters are journeying in Hell, far from the warmth of the Almighty’s love.
Finally, this film definitely made wolves scary again. The wolves constantly pursue the survivors with an almost supernatural quality. At one point in the film I was almost sure that I was watching horror, not adventure. The wolves are unstoppable, blood-thirsty, and relentless in their pursuit.
The Bad (spoiler alerts)
If it weren’t for the following two points, I would definitely call The Grey the first great film of 2012. Honestly, I am still tempted to call this the first truly great film of 2012. However, the following bad points for The Grey are so distracting and annoying that it ultimately detracts from the viewing experience.
The film had an overlong 3rd act. Things were starting to drag in the latter part. This usually doesn’t distract me, but this detraction, coupled with a really annoyingly, anticlimactic, abrupt ending really ticked me off. Fine, Neeson’s character accepts his fate that he’ll die. I could live with that. But the build-up to the “climactic” duel with the Alpha Male Wolf was so well done that when the screen goes black and the closing credits start rolling in, I felt cheated. Fine, maybe that was an intentional part of the director because a stylized wolf duel would be quite distracting from the film’s point of accepting death when it comes. But if that were the case, I really didn’t need to be subjected through the last minutes where Neeson prepares for the duel (and the imagery associated with it just looks so bad-ass).
An overlong 3rd Act and an anticlimactic ending are this film’s serious blunders. These aren’t just minor blunders, these are serious mistakes that really frustrates me for the rest of the film was so well done that I felt the ending just wasn’t satisfactory enough. The audience deserved something more than the current ending.
But, if you’re willing to look past these faults, then this is definitely 2012’s first great film.
4 stars out of 5.