Here’s the next installment of my top 31 films since 2000.
#24. The Grey (2011)
I saw The Grey expecting nothing more than an edgy survival story, anticipating another gravelly-voiced hack-job from Liam Neeson, but I couldn’t have been more joyfully wrong. Instead of, Cast Away in the mountains, I got Jaws with wolves. Neeson transcends performance and pathos, and after a series of forgetful roles since the tragic death of his wife two years earlier, it’s like we witness him through his the character Ottway confront his loss and decide, before our eyes, to either bare down and survive or surrender to the grey.
Clearly the studio execs tried to sell The Grey’s as just another pulpy action film, perhaps hoping to milk the successes of director Joe Carnahan’s previous two films, The A*Team and Smokin’ Aces, but they forgot about Narc, Carnahan’s masterpiece cop drama that showed he is so much more than a studio puppet. Like Narc, The Grey eviscerates genre cliché. It’s beautifully philosophical in story, character, and style. The wolves, for instance, aren’t just the mindless beasts suggested in the silly trailer; they are the grey space between black and white, between right and wrong, love and hate, life and death, truth and fiction. They continuously threaten Ottway, but also save him from certain death? Who, after all, is the monster here, the savage beasts that have evolved to be perfect in their natural habitat, hunting to protect and feed, or is it the greedy oil barons who blindly abuse nature? Is death the beginning or the end? Is this real or a mirage of impressions dancing in the folds of an oxygen-starved brain? Doesn’t matter much, except that there’s more to The Grey than simple black and white.
Check out the trailer below and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #23.