Liam Neeson in The Grey (2011)

The Hunted

Ottway (Liam Neeson - Unknown) works as a wolf hunter at an Alaskan oil refinery the sort of place where those who are running away from life and those who are too dangerous for normality work. At the end of their stint in the bleakness of the snow the men and Ottway board a plane to head back but disaster strikes when the plane crashes killing all but 7 of them. With the most expertise Ottway takes control of the situation trying to lead the men to safety through the heavy snow, all the time being hunted by a pack of wolves.

In the first few minutes "The Grey" had me hooked, but not in the way I was expecting. Having read the write up I had imagined a straight forward action movie with Liam Neeson pulling of his action shit in the middle of it as he leads the men on a battle to survive. But the opening takes us into the character of Ottway and right off the bat we know this is a man burdened by life to the point that he gains no pleasure from life at all. It is powerfully done when we watch him put his mouth over the barrel of his rifle as he considers blowing his brains out. And it isn't just that scene as the way he doesn't want to interact with others speaks volumes of a man with a level of self loathing.

Because we are immediately served up this troubled character it makes us sit up aware that whilst what follows may be as expected there will be more to it than just an action survival movie. Of course it does become an action/survival movie with the plane crash quickly thrust upon us in a way which keeps us in close to the character of Ottway, a clever move as it shows us that he is a man who whilst appearing tough also suffers fear, grasping to strap himself into his seat before it is too late.

Now this is where "The Grey" serves up some problems as we have a plane crash, some survivors and a decision to try and walk to freedom. When you consider that planes have a ton of tracking equipment on them you do have to ignore the daft move to leave it. There is also a small matter of authenticity as whilst I have no idea how effective the portrayal of wolves are in "The Grey" it appears those who do know find this side wrong, so wrong that in fact there are some who hate this movie for being factually wrong.

But despite that "The Grey" simply lives and breathes thanks to Liam Neeson who brings his wealth of acting talent to the role. Neeson is a man who can do lived and as such when he portrays a man weighed down by the burden of his past you believe it, just as much as when he steps up to take control of the situation. Don't get me wrong as the rest of the cast are very good but director Joe Carnahan focuses the camera on Ottway and in doing so allows Neeson to be a character rather than just a man of action.

What this all boils down to is that "The Grey" isn't going to be for everyone because it is more than a wilderness survival movie. But for those who enjoy watching movies where an actor is a character rather than just acts will enjoy the performance from Liam Neeson and the depth which underlies the story.