Friday, February 3, 2012

The Grey

Joe Carnahan is one of those frustrating filmmakers to get your head around he has had a more interesting career hypothetically (and in all fairness has desired such a career) than he has had in actuality.

I’m much more interested in the alternate universe Joe Carnahan who made his long threatened opus, Killing Pablo. The one who had the balls to make White Jazz with George Clooney. The one got to make the Mission Impossible 3 that he proposed. The one that scared the shit out of Tom Cruise so badly that he ran to David Fincher of all people to lighten things up.

I am less interested in the one who ended up directing The A-Team and producing Smoking Aces 2. When looking at his CV one is left with one film that’s pretty good considering, one flat out masterpiece and a guilty pleasure of a gore cartoon. For all his potential and despite the fact that I like him personally, there is no doubt that Joe Carnahan has talked a better game than he has played.

Until now.

Not only is The Grey the best film that has had Joe Carnahan’s name on it in the ten years since Narc, it may even be better than Narc. A hardcore piece of masculine cinema that feels out of time. Robert Aldrich might have made this, Walter Hill on his best day, Raoul Walsh, Peckinpah, John Huston. Hell there’s even the slightest touch of Herzog in this thing. To walk into one of todays theaters and see this thing feels nothing short of astounding.

Pitiless, merciless, written with a keen understanding of human nature and shot superlative skill, The Grey isn’t just good. It’s as great as B-Movies get. And if you know me, you know that designation is not a put down by any stretch of the imagination.

Liam Neeson centers the movie as a man who finds his survival instinct reenergized at the least expected time. It’s one of his best performances, and if you come into the movie expecting him to be “Just doing Liam Neeson” be prepared to be reminded what an affecting actor he can be. It was always Neeson’s surprising vulnerability not his cool that made him such a fascinating presence (that and his freakishly large hands) and his character Ottway is one of his best performances.

By now you’ve most likely heard the premise of an Artic Drilling Crew stranded in the tundra, hunted by wolves. Perhaps you’ve even seen the misleading trailers which try to sell the film as Unknown But With Wolves. What you probably haven’t heard is about the seething desolation of the environment that Carnahan creates. The way hope slowly drains from the men and their environment, until they reach something that almost transcends hope. You probably haven’t heard of the tense set pieces Carnahan sets up. The way he shoots these animals and the animals the men become to fend them off. The impenetrable dark lit only by the eye shine. Driven back only weak fires. The desperation that this movie brings. This is Jack London gone brutal and crazed. This is great cinema. 

Welcome back Joe. I’ve missed you. 


In case you haven't been following along I rounded off the 80's and kicked off The 90's over at Son Of Danse Macabre, with two of my favorite horror movies to write about. I think both turned out pretty well, but why don't you go over and judge for yourself? 


le0pard13 said...

Nailed it! I happened to see two films last weekend. Both very different, but each were intensely moving and memorable. ‘The Flowers of War’ and ‘The Grey’. Like you, ‘Narc’ was my favorite film by Joe Carnahan prior. I daresay this one has squeezed by it. The location work was extraordinary, and the CGI was kept to a minimum (as Liam Neeson reported, the wolves were mostly animatronic). But, the story and performances made this movie remarkable. It really spoke about men in a number of ways most of us guys will recognize, or quietly keep to ourselves. It really is the “first awesome movie of 2012.” Great review for a great movie. Thanks for this

Peter Lenihan said...

This sounds amazing and I can't wait to get to it, although it might be a while (I don't live anywhere near a movie theater anymore). I wasn't a huge fan of Smokin' Aces but I remember being real fond of Narc, though I haven't seen it since it came out (should definitely revisit).

Bryce Wilson said...

@ le0: Thanks man. I was so skeptical when I heard they were using anamatronics rather than real wolves but it ended up being very effective.

I'm going to have to rewatch Narc again before I decide which has the edge though. It did get 2012 off to a good start. Hell, if it had come out a month earlier it'd be high up in my list of 2011.

@ Peter: I think you'll enjoy. It's in a very different league from Smoking Aces.

film said...

I cant wait to see the Grey. However, I think it might be a while till it hits the African shores.

Film Intel said...

This just keeps on tracking more and more good reviews. Tempted to try and find a screening of it this week. Really liked your last paragraph, very evocative.

Anonymous said...

hi bryce,

my name is sevé schelenz and i've sent you a couple of e-mails but they may have fallen into your junk folder. i made a horror feature named "skew" and was wondering if you'd like to see it and consider it for review? please e-mail me at if you're interested and i can give you some more details. sorry to contact you through the comment section. please feel free to delete this. thanks and hope to chat soon.

The Movie Waffler said...

Absolutely loved this movie though I didn't realise there was a post credits scene which slightly ruins it.

Unknown said...

I can't believe any of you poster's! This is possibly one of the WORST most unbelievable movies ever made. The entire first 15 minutes could have been cut and it wouldn't have changed the entire piece of crap even a little except letting me out of my misery faster. 1. Wolves NEVER NEVER NEVER come that close to fire! EVER!!!
2. Wolves rarely come that close to a person let alone a group of people.
3. He throws away a perfectly operational gun because the stock is broken, and he is a "professional Hunter"?
4. The F.A.A. would have been searching for that plane minutes after it crashed!
5. The character suffering from altitude sickness....really? Most of Alaska is not much higher than sea level!
It spoke about men how? What, that men are idiots? If that is what you are talking about I guess they nailed it!
WOW are you all blind and deaf?! I bet you all thought "Alexander" was a masterpiece? The ONLY redeeming feature of this unlikely borefest was the scenery.