THE GREY (Joe Carnahan)
THE GREY starts out almost in Terrence Malick fashion, what with all the voice overs and musings and philosophical undertones. As the action is set in motion by a plane crash into the icy wilderness, a group of survivors band together against a pack of wolves who see them as enemies.
Liam Neeson is John Ottway, who becomes the de facto leader of the group, who knows this and that, but we never really understand why he is so good with this and that and has become the leader. Neeson's husky voice and tall, brooding physique nevertheless helps securing the integrity of his character as a leader figure.
The story concerns itself with survival, and with it constant questions of who's the actual predator, the humans or the wolves? Joe Carnahan, working on his script and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers (which is in turn based on Jeffers' short story) illustrates how man really is expendable, and any minute may be your last. What Carnahan achieves best in THE GREY is making us feel every sinking footstep in the ice, or every chilling intake of breath, or every cry of the wolves nearby. THE GREY is more atmospheric than it is philosophical, and I think the philosophy is eventually drowned out by the onscreen violence and fight for survival.
There is a must-see part later in the movie, where one of the characters cannot make the journey further, and Ottway asks him why, to which he responds he has nothing to come back to. That for me, is classic philosophical catharsis.
Earlier in the movie, we see Ottway put a shotgun in his mouth, as if desperate to end his worthless life. In an ironic turn of events, the wolves will actually do the job for him, and he is every bit determined not to let the wolves take him.
Not actually concerned with whether the group survives or not, THE GREY wants us more to share their peril, and learn what lessons they have picked up along the way. Ottway recites in the end his father's poem, with words "live and die on this day", which strengthens the film's focus on the frailty of humanity.