Having a “very particular set of skills” Liam Neeson is now no stranger to action after his superb showings in Taken and The A-Team, here collaborating once more with director Joe Carnahan for The Grey, a grizzly survival tale.
Not only can Neeson take down aggressors with some wisecracking while toking on a cigar and with Bourne like hand to hand talents, but now as hardened Alaskan oil worker Ottway, he can battle wolves and even more adeptly dispense with the sharp toothed foe with a rifle from 200 yards.
After a violent plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, Ottway’s leadership and ‘Grylls’ skills are put to the test, trying to lead the usual cast of co-workers to safety, but they soon learn they have stumbled into the Wolves den as the truly ravenous beasts look to make a meal out of Neeson and Co.
It a pretty simple tale, with religious musings and thoughts of family and home thrown in to add greater emotional ballast, but the tension is cranked up as bodies begin to pile up and the pursuing wolves gather for the kill.
And it’s the perimeter encamping by the wolves which adds tension as they pick of members of Neeson’s pack in nightly salvos and chases across arctic tundra. A piercing encounter when the beasts come take their first look, campfire torch lights reflecting watching eyes from the dark is chilling and superb, and when more pairs of eyes begin to close and light up, the wolf pack’s greater numbers are revealed. It’s the added man v beast battle that drives the movie and tells a different tale on the already seen survival story. A smart ‘Alive’ reference cleverly states the obvious we’re all thinking.
The wolves are a mix of decent CG, animatronics and real beasts with a great howling soundtrack adding to the unseen menace from the darkness, but it’s the strategy and intelligence of the not so mindless pack that provides a captivating wilderness adversary; and they’re big!
The supporting cast to Neeson’s brilliant lead aren’t as convincing with the usual band of cohorts providing the inevitable fresh meat, an ex-con plastic hard case, that is firmly put in his place more than once, a rotund family man, a bothersome ‘yeehaaw’ and the ‘timid’ one, all fodder for the beasties, while also falling foul of mother nature.
But Neeson, mercifully shines with a powerhouse performance, giving much needed depth with a backstory, told by whisking flashbacks of time spent with the wife and old fatherly ties providing a life motto for a lost man, no longer without faith or purpose whose new snowy predicament may conversely give him something to fight for; and fight he does all while thankfully donning the Irish persona, dropping any lame American accenting that he still hasn’t managed to master, no biggy! Neeson is at ease, mixing the hard case of Taken with the nobility and strength of a Jedi.
The Grey is a straight up wilderness tale, but it’s supremely entertaining and captivating with Neeson bringing his best form. He certainly has “skills!”
The Grey is now available on DVD and Blu Ray