Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Grey, or, Endgame

Guess what the operative word is in that tag line.

1.  “Well there’s something you don’t see every day. A horror movie about how people die, not just who dies.”   That’s the first thing I thought when I walked out of the theatre.  

2.  It’s dark, depressing, brutal, unsparing, but never gratuitous, which is a rarity in any movie where the actors get picked off one by one.

3.  In every monster movie, there’s a Van Helsing, somebody who’s an expert on this particular type of monster.  In this movie (surprise!) it’s Liam Neeson, who happens to be a wolf-killer.  And just like in vampire movies, nobody else knows jack about vampires, so our expert is free to set the premise, explain the threat, plant the seeds of future events (alpha males, the wolves’ den), etc.  Which would have annoyed me a lot less if only one of the other actors had just a smidgen of wolf trivia at his fingertips.

4.  Best airplane crash since Fearless.

5.  There’s a scene right after that crash which is the movie in miniature, a scene in which Neeson’s character Ottway tells an injured co-worker that he’s dying and he should just let himself go.  I found it to be really powerful, mostly because, in a scene like this, you almost always see the living actor tell the dying actor that everything is going to be all right, and when the dying actor says something clever or forward-looking and then dies, the living actor gets to shed a sorrowful tear.  In this movie?  The dying guy cries.  Because who wouldn’t when he’s told he’s dying?

6.  This is not just a movie about how people die, but about how people face death.  If you don’t want to spend money to think about that for two hours, then go watch Haywire, which is about how people face an ass-kicking by Gina Carano.

7.  If this was a Western movie, it would be about a 7th Cavalry patrol that’s lost in the Dakota Territory and getting picked off one by one by sneaky Sioux warriors.  If it had been made in the 40’s?  The survivors would be rescued.  In the 70’s?  No way.

8.  As a matter of fact, the entire movie can be summed up by the oft-quoted rallying cry of Crazy Horse during the battle of the Little Big Horn: “Today is a good day to die.”

9.  There’s a teaser scene at the end of the credits, a brief and ambiguous 3-5 second shot that is over almost as soon as you see it.  I think I know what it means, and what it echoes earlier in the film.  But it’s still a head-scratcher.

10.  Hard to believe this is the same guy who directed A-Team.

11.  On a level above plot and story?  If you know anything about Liam Neeson’s personal life, and the loss of his wife Natasha Richardson, you can’t help reading Neeson's personal grief into those recurring moments when he dreams about his young (lover?  wife?) repeatedly smiling and saying, “Don’t be afraid,” a memory which isn’t explained until close to the end.  And no, it's not a happy explanation.

12.  And on another level--the one that’s hardest to take?  The Grey is a movie about how Life is a horror movie where everyone dies.  Because isn’t it, really?  And we may not want to watch it more than once, but then we don’t get to live it more than once either.

13. Heaven: the religious equivalent of a post-credit teaser. Discuss.


Anonymous said...

ooh! I want to see it. But you came dangerously close to telling me things I don't want to know before seeing the movie. harumph.
(this is amanda. I'm feeling too lazy to log in, but don't want to leave an anonymous comment. although, now that I've taken the time and energy to type all this all out, it would have just been easier to log in, wouldn't it?)

Horvendile said...

Oh Amanda--I hope I haven't spoiled it too much. I always debate about how much I want to give away--in this case, I decided that letting people know as much as possible about the mood (downbeat) was the way to go.

Re-reading the review just now? I forgot two things.

1. I didn't even say whether I liked it or not. So hey world: I liked it.

2. One sentence review: It's the Samuel Beckett version of the Jack London story "To Build A Fire;" with wolves.

mrleslieinla said...

A great movie, although I question the zoology. The wolves got less believable the closer they came. As for the people, I agree with everything you said.