A plan crashes in Alaska. Only a handful of men survive. They have to make it across the frozen wilderness whilst being pursued by a pack of vicious wolves. Admit it, that sounds like the synopsis of a pretty poor movie doesn’t it? Based on this and the accompanying trailer, my hopes were not high for The Grey.

Why then is it so good?

Of course, Liam Neeson has an uncanny ability to add quality and substance films that could otherwise be terrible – just look at the 2008 success Taken. In The Grey, Neeson plays depressed and regretful Ottoway, employed by a remote Alaskan oil drilling company to keep the drill site safe from wolves and predators. Neeson deftly portrays Ottoway’s inner conflicts, desire for survival and feelings of isolation.

All of The Grey’s characters are misfits, social outcasts. This not only heightens the jeopardy, as they fear ‘no one will come’, but also generates intensity as the characters struggle with their own issues and relationships with home. It is their difficulty fitting in that makes these characters so interesting, making The Grey different to many other Hollywood action thrillers.

Although some aspects of The Grey are a little far fetched (for instance, Ottoway waking up from the crash without a scrap of debris around him), The Grey manages to keep its audience engrossed. The crash scene is particularly tense and there are some moving scenes in its immediate aftermath.

Director Joe Carnahan captures the Alaskan landscape in all its ferocity and, incredibly, The Grey feels very real. It also has some nice post production touches in its use of music and sound, intensifying emotional investment in the characters and plot.

The Grey is surprisingly good. Don’t dismiss it for a seemingly implausible plot – it will hook you. 

I’m now intrigued to read the short story Ghost Walker by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers on which the film is based – I will do my best to review it before the release of the DVD!

VERDICT:   ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

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