The Grey [Blu-Ray] Joe Carnahan

The Grey [Blu-Ray] Joe Carnahan
No, this isn't a movie about Liam Neeson engaging in fisticuffs with a pack of wolves. Although they share a similar premise, unlike The Edge, where two men pit their wiles against each other and an aggressive animal assailant after surviving a plane crash, The Grey isn't about surviving so much as it's about coming to terms with personal truths that make life worth fighting for and recognizing death as an acceptable inevitability. It's the quiet moments of contemplative conversation between these roughhewn men, all with reasons that never need explicit stating for the self-imposed exile of their Alaskan oil-drilling livelihoods, as much as it's about the harsh, oppressive screeching wind, relentless snowfall and tension caused by the continuous threat of wolf assault that makes director/co-writer Joe Carnahan's most accomplished and mature effort to date an uncommon achievement for a survival thriller. As effective as the ensemble cast is, with top-tier work by Neeson, as wolf expert Ottway, there are a few minor cracks in the film's construction. Ottway's expository narration at the beginning a bit too conveniently sets the scene, especially when the accompanying images give much of the same impression without being as heavy-handed. Likewise, there's a little too much emphasis on Ottway's unknown past trauma with his wife. Though it pays off thematically in the end, the excursions into Ottway's memories are a bit disruptive to the film's pacing, save when used very effectively in the masterfully edited plane crash sequence. That scene is amongst the most harrowing crashes committed to film and Carnahan knows it, crediting and praising the editing team of Roger Barton and Jason Hellman, whom the gruff director shares a feature commentary track with. At odds with the rest of the brief and by-the-books special features, the commentary contains plenty of frank discussion on how the film was shaped, like Carnahan acknowledging the stupidity of his idea to have a polar bear dissuade Ottway's suicidal urge in the beginning, instead of the much more thematically appropriate wolf howl that stays his trigger finger in the final cut. But at least we also get to see just how much that polar bear scene would have messed with the tone; it's included in the otherwise forgettable deleted scenes. Three featurettes ("Man vs. Nature," "The Extremes" and "Once More into the Fray") are light on content and heavy on regurgitated clips of the movie and self-congratulatory verbal backslapping from most of the cast. At least Neeson and Carnahan demonstrate some critical thinking in the collection of full interviews from which the meagre content in the aforementioned features was drawn, making them even more superfluous. Speaking of, why the hell is a collection of random clips from the movie labelled as a "special feature"? Forgiving the lacklustre bonus content and mediocre CGI wolf effects, The Grey is a moving and thrilling journey that strips down the artifice of social conditioning in order to face the stark truths of life and death head on. (eOne)