Cut to a shot of Liam Neeson snuggling with a beautiful unnamed brunette, bathed in slanted sunlight. Cut to her face. Cut to her hand stroking his hair. Now cut to Liam Neeson with a gun in his mouth. He is about to pull the trigger when hearing a wolf howling stops him.
In his roles these days, Liam Neeson seems singularly opposed to teamwork, and his role of John in The Grey is no exception. He can do it all by himself. If you are being attacked by a pack of wolves, he knows how survive. Follow him, and you might live. Don’t follow him at your peril. Even though it is hard to find good help, if we are to enjoy The Grey, it first involves buying in to this hackneyed way of thinking: Life requires a singular, strong, male leader. But, even to sustain this possibility, we have to be placed in an extreme situation: a plane crash with a few survivors in a freezing Arctic location.
That is not the only thing we have to buy into. John is portrayed as something of a wolf expert, having gained his knowledge apparently from his profession as a wolf hunter on a remote oil dilling site. His general conclusions about the wolves can be summed up in one whispered word: “maneaters.”
Perhaps the most laughable parts of the movie are the director’s strained efforts to paint the wolf as an aggressive “maneater,” utilizing dark lighting, glowing eyes, menacing, absurd, thundering sounds that would never come from a wolf, and puppets that look small and ridiculous.
The movie is novel in that there are only two women in the movie, and neither has a developed character. One of them is the unnamed brunette bathed in sunlight, existent only in John’s recollection. The other, a flight attendant, who does nothing other than her work as a flight attendant before dying violently when the plane rips apart.
Not surprisingly, the highlights of the movie occur when there is actually nothing going on, and the survivors are sitting around talking. At one point, talk turns from comedic to serious to John’s reciting of a four line poem. That moment in the movie was sweet and awkward, as if the whole movie were made just to deliver that little poem.
I have left a lot out of The Grey because it is something that must be experienced firsthand, preferably with a friend. It is not a fabulous failure in the vien of John Carter, and it is sure to spark animated debate that involves wolves. Who knows, it could even be a taken as morality play that shows the absurdity of the “strong male leader.” The Grey is available on Netflix.