Get out of the woods!
Playing on the fear of the unknown is a technique commonly used in film and when paired with audience subjectivity it creates suspense that has been the success of some of cinema’s finest; Alien (1979), Jaws (1975) and more recently Gareth Edwards stunning debut Monsters (2010).
When a plane crash leaves a group of Alaskan oil drillers stranded in the freezing wilderness, survival expert, Ottway (Liam Neeson), must do all he can to keep the remaining survivors alive as they are hunted down by a pack of ferocious wolves.
Much like the legendary great white, the wolves in The Grey are an exaggerated and unrelenting predator. Presented as a calculating menace, masked by the darkness of shadows; their glowing eyes the only thing that give their presence away the wolves are genuinely frightening.
The Grey provides opportunity for director Joe Carnahan to rein in his usually frantic style and introduce a newfound sense of subtlety. The filmmaker shows maturity in altering his style and the film noticeably benefits from the realism that is lacking from his previous films The A-Team (2010) and Smokin’ Aces (2006). The turbulent style of the filmmaker is not forgotten, but used sparingly throughout the film and best exemplified by the immaculate editing and camera-shake in a terrifyingly real plane crash.
Having discovered a new lease of life as an action hero late on in his career Liam Neeson is nothing short of fantastic in this film. Though his character is open to similarities to his previous roles in Taken (2008) and Unknown (2011) his performance in The Grey sees a revival of characterisation that has been lacking since his famous portrayal of Oscar Schindler. He provides a character that is multidimensional, complex and most importantly real, resulting in a character that we care for and want to survive.
Through strong direction, writing and acting The Grey is a film that brilliantly relies on construction of fear and in doing so does for wolves, what Jaws did for sharks.