By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
A few winters ago, Liam Neeson began a new phase in his career. He went from dramatic Oscar-worthy performances in films like “Schindler’s List” and “Michael Collins” to an unlikely action star in the hit film “Taken.” It was an odd move and hasn’t been without its bumps.
This winter, he continues the trend with his new film, “The Grey.” Neeson plays a sniper, Ottway, working at an Alaskan oil rig. He calls it a “job at the end of the world,” working with “men unfit for mankind.” He’s suicidal and haunted by memories of his wife. He boards a plane to leave, and that’s when the crash happens.
The survivors, Ottway, Hendrick (Dallas Roberts), Diaz (Frank Grillo), Talget (Dermot Mulroney), Burke (Nonso Anozie) and Flannery (Joe Anderson) make it through the harrowing plane crash, but now have to survive in the wilderness, surrounded by countless wolves who feel threatened.
There are plenty of scenes in “The Grey” that are very disturbing and nerve-wracking, but you have to be patient. The movie really takes off when the group of survivors must make it to the woods and hopefully beyond to safety. It’s not really spoiling anything to say that things start piling on the survivors. It’s not long before the wolves start picking them off.
Once the survivors have made a race for the tree line, the movie clicks into place. The scenes that follow—particularly the campfire scenes—are best described as wrenching.
“The Grey” is a movie that asks a lot of its viewer. It presents itself as a straight-up thriller—a sort of man vs. wild, back-to-the-basics film. And those scenes certainly are predominate in the movie, but more often than not they are bookended by contemplative discussions between the characters. Director Joe Carnahan uses those scenes to lull the audience into a sense of calm that is often quickly interrupted. It’s an interesting method and isn’t always effective but when it’s on, it’s on.
Carnahan directs with different methods, but the real standout in the film is his use of the environment. There is something stark and unforgiving about the images he places against the sharp white snow. There are moments when the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking.
This is probably as good as Neeson’s been in a while. He alternates between passionate, explosive and a strangely calming influence. Also worth mentioning is Roberts and Mulroney, who as Hendrick and Talget respectively provide a heart to the movie. The few laughs delivered in the movie are given by these two.
“The Grey” is an incredibly well-made film, slick and brutally intense. Just make sure you go in with a strong stomach.