The Grey

Joe Carnahan's The Grey is only incidentally about a group of men who survive a deadly aircraft crash in the Alaskan wilderness. For me, that event is only backdrop for a fascinating exploration of what it means to be alive and our relationship with our present ... not so much about what comes next. Liam Neeson is on camera for 90 percent of this film and much of that time his face fills the frame -- brows knit in concentration, indignation, terror. He is Ottway, the leader of a dwindling group of oil field workers who walked away from the crash. He leads their efforts to fend off the attacks of menacing wolves (which are to be read more as metaphorical representations of life's exigencies) and the night's numbing cold (that long last sleep that awaits us all). Yes, members of the small band fall one-by-one but that's not the story ... it's how the men are changed by each of these deaths that was far more interesting to me. One of the most powerful scenes -- there are a dozen enormously thought-provoking moments in this picture -- comes just after the plane crashes and Neeson's Ottway gently guides a fatally injured oilman into the warm arms of death with his voice. It's a masterfully crafted scene, played in extreme closeup, the camera trained on eyes, scraggy beards, bloody hands. It will be imprinted on your brain.

I'd put off seeing this film because I found the trailer so unappetizing -- another survivor adventure. But The Grey is actually Carnahan's poetic essay on the meaning of life. Do see it.

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