Liam Neeson‘s latest film is The Grey. Neeson has been one of my favorite actors over the years but frequent readers of my reviews will no doubt recall that I’ve had major problems with his latest films. The guy is a long way from Shindler’s List. It’s also been 8 years since 2004’s Kinsey, which is the last film I enjoyed him in. Most of his recent work has been in highly unbelievable action movies or in various comic book and legend-type films many of which seem entirely beneath him. It’s time to change gears before there’s nothing left but reverse.
The Grey is a story about a group of male oil-rig workers in the middle of a very remote section of the Alaskan wilderness. During a break they board a doomed flight and, those who survive, end up in the middle of nowhere with virtually nothing to help them endure the monumental task ahead of them. Nothing seems to go their way from the moment they boarded the plane.
Neeson’s character is the only one among them who understands the dangers they face, most notably from wolves who descend upon the crash site almost immediately. His job with the company involved being a sharpshooter to protect other workers from the likes of these huge Alaskan wolves. He seems quite the expert on their every nuance.
The group, like all such groups in these types of films, is a mixed lot. You’ve got a few good guys, a trouble maker or two, a couple who clearly are not physically prepared for the challenge and Neeson. One of the good guys is, quite surprisingly, played by Dermot Mulroney who is barely recognizable behind thick glasses and a swath of rough gray hair and beard.
Nothing in the film came as a surprise. It was all pretty standard fare. Most concerning is that the film also follows the standard approach by bringing with it a veritable myriad of ludicrous choices and plot elements. There are so many that I’m not even sure where to begin or if it’s worth bothering. The worst offender involves, sadly, the wolves. First of all, think about Alaska. It’s huge. Anyone that’s read or watched anything about the Alaskan wilderness knows you can spend days, weeks or months in the middle of it and see little other than trees and birds. The guy who spent years there among the grizzly bears never had trouble with wolves. Christopher McCandless from Into The Wild fame spent all his time there without having a problem with wolves. This group apparently exists in a pocket of Alaska where wolves live around every corner. We’re also asked to believe that they’re being hunted by the same group of wolves even after they cross a huge divide that would be virtually impossible for the same wolves to frequent—except here.
Neeson does a solid job with the role but the material just isn’t interesting. The film is flat throughout. It’s not awful but it’s not very interesting either. It just tells its obvious story with the obvious outcome and ends with one of the most ridiculous sequences possible. I guess that’s a perfect fit for this film.
I should also comment on the choice by Neeson to act in this film. If you know anything about his life story it includes losing his own beautiful wife not that long ago. His character in this film is haunted by the recent loss of a beautiful wife and we all found it impossible not to think about that with every related scene. I can’t even begin to imagine how the director approached Neeson for those shots. He had to be thinking of his own wife and it all just seems heartless (of the producers) and sad. One is left to wonder if Neeson simply needs the money. I hope not.