Reviewed by: Laura Busch
fear of heights, fear of air travel, fear of being torn apart by wild animals, fear of drowning
wolves in the Bible
our mortality / death in the Bible
heroism / courageously helping others survive
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
Why does God “allow innocent people to suffer”? Answer
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
love of family
|Featuring:||Liam Neeson … Ottway
Frank Grillo … John Diaz
James Badge Dale
Larissa Stadnichuk … Flight Attendant #1
Ben Bray … Hernandez
James Bitonti … Ottway’s Father
Jonathan Bitonti … Young Ottway
|Producer:||1984 Private Defense Contractors
Scott Free Productions
|Distributor:||Open Road Films|
“Live or die on this day”
It is truly man versus beast in Liam Neeson’s latest film, “The Grey,” a gritty action thriller about a group of roughnecks who get stranded in the frigid Alaskan wilderness after their plane crashes. The fatal crash leaves only seven survivors. Among them Ottway (Liam Neeson), a broken man haunted by a personal tragedy from his past, and six other oil riggers. This group of men soon discover that the battle with the elements is only the beginning of their fight for survival. Packs of vicious wolves become their most formidable foe, as these territorial animals mercilessly hunt them. Ottway is a marksman whose job is to protect the other oil riggers from attacks by wolves and other predators, while they are on the job. After the plane crash, Ottway puts his expertise to use as he leads this group of men through the Alaskan wilderness. Ottway and the other oil riggers come to terms with their own mortality, as they fight for their lives in the vicious Alaskan tundra.
“The Grey” is an apologetically grisly action flick that more than earns its R-rating. The profanity in this film is pervasive, with the Lord’s name taken in vain well over a dozen times, including several pairings with the words, d—-n and d——t. There are well over 100 uses of the f-word, in its various forms (I lost count). Nearly every line of dialog uses the f-word in some form. There are also more than 40 uses of the s-word. Vulgarities such as b——h, a—-, b——-d, h—-, and others, also litter the dialog. In one scene, Ottway, who is at the end of his rope, begins to curse God and cry out to Him asking God to show Himself to him.
The dialog is also peppered with several crude sexual references. One of the men says he hopes he makes it out of the wilderness alive, because the last woman he slept with was overweight and unattractive, and he doesn’t want her to be the last woman he is ever with.
Director Carnahan does not sugarcoat his depiction of gore and violence in his cutthroat tale of survival. There are a number of scenes that show mutilated and bloody bodies. Several of the bodies have very gory wounds, and, in a few of the scenes, the camera lingers on those wounds. There are a number of scenes where wolves are shown attacking the men. These attacks are mostly presented in a series of fast cut close-ups of the wolves’ teeth and the men fighting them off. There is also a rather lengthy shot that shows one of the men aggressively cutting off a wolf’s head that they have killed and eaten. The man then holds the bloodied wolf’s head up into the air, as he taunts the pack of wolves that are lying in wait in the wilderness. One man attempts to loot dead bodies for valuables in the aftermath of the plane crash. A few fights and power struggles break out amongst the men.
This film isn’t completely devoid of redeeming moments. There are several rays of light, in this otherwise grim and gritty movie. This film reveals our fallen human nature, but it also shows the men often choosing to do the right thing, in many situations. For example, when one of the oil riggers wants to loot the dead bodies for valuables, after the plane crash, Ottway forbids him to do this and tells him that they will “not be looting bodies.” Ottway and most of the men have great respect for the gift of life. Ottway tells the men that he wants them to collect all of the wallets of the deceased, so they can give them to their families.
One of the men tells the group that he wants them to say a prayer of some kind, out of respect for the lives that have been lost. In his prayer, he also thanks God for sparing their lives and asks him “to keep it up.” Ottway stays by one man’s side, after he is mortally wounded by the crash. Ottway holds the dying man’s hand, comforts him, and tells him to think of his loved ones as he passes away. When these men are not being hunted by wolves, their thoughts go to their loved ones, and they discuss the deep love each of them have for their families. It is clear that their wives, girlfriends, and children are the most important things in each of their lives.
Many secular critics are singing “The Grey’s” praises, hailing it as a “must see” action thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat. I disagree with these mainstream assessments. While I agree that Neeson and the supporting cast deliver solid performances, my displeasure for this film lies in its story’s lack of depth and surly dialog. The film’s exploration of the deeper moments feels hollow and falls short. Some of the elements of the film could have been handled in better taste. This film did not resonate with me in the same way that other comparable survival films such as, “127 Hours” did.
At times, the dialog felt more like a series of tasteless one-liners, than a thoughtful script constructed to build a tragic and gripping story about the human spirit, as this group of men deal with the reality of their mortality and question the existence of God. This film had potential to be the kind of story that leaves audiences talking about it for days after they see it. But this story didn’t leave me on the edge of my seat; rather I found myself bored with what I feel is just another foul-mouthed action flick that will be quickly forgotten. The film lacks depth of emotion and does not pull the viewer in, but leaves the audience on the surface in a movie full of foul language and crude dialog. In my opinion, it did not succeed in being an exciting and introspective tale about life and death that leaves its audience captivated by its gripping story. Even though “The Grey” is not completely devoid of more redemptive and poignant moments, overall, I feel that this film falls short on many fronts, and I cannot recommend it.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
Editor’s Note: Since some are wondering about the filmmaker’s worldview, we did some research. He was raised a Roman Catholic. In a January 9, 2012 interview, this film’s director/writer Joe Carnahan says, “I’m a lapsed Catholic.” (source: aintitcool.com). Based on various things he has reportedly said, he seems to be non-religious, but considers himself a spiritual seeeker. My current best guess is that he has a flexible worldview that has relatively little personal interest in Jesus Christ or religion, but feels that God and eternal life may exist and that there may be truth to be discovered about these things in various religions of the world.
About the film, Carnahan explains,
“Be open minded and available to everything and not just saying it’s Jesus Christ or bust. So much of the world will do that. I find it troubling …Don’t be dogmatic. I don’t see how it would be possible for us to make this movie if we were closed down or myopic in any form.” (source: patheos.com)
About the film’s spirituality:
A film writer reports, “In one scene, Neeson’s character—who earlier denied belief in God—challenges God, demanding help or answers. It was Neeson’s idea, Carnahan says, to pause in something very like prayer and carefully arrange objects in what seems to be a cross.” (source: patheos.com)
In another interview Carnahan says,
“Listen if an atheist sees this film they say, ‘There’s no way he [Liam Neeson’s character] believes in God.’ If the most hardcore Christian sees this film, they say, ‘Absolutely he believes in God’ and I think it’s a lot like the ‘God helps those who help themselves’ idea that if you are motivated and have the self-interest and have the self-survival and you get out and get after it and struggle to live, then you’ll in some way be taken care of. You’ll be in some way rewarded and then sometimes not. This is the way of the universe and certainly it’s the way of nature. Nothing is given. Nothing is certain and I think that as you get older you start to think about things. You start to think about your own mortality, your own advancing age. …There are things that start to occur to you where you go, ‘What’s out there? What’s waiting for me? What’s the afterlife look like? Is there an afterlife?’ All these things that… listen we’re given the ability to abstract thought. We should consider these things I guess from time to time. These were things that were certainly weighing on me as I was writing it and again the beauty of having that kind of time is that I was able to go back and look at the pages and explore them and kind of root around in them to hopefully extract the things that were meaningful to me. But I think it’s absolutely spiritual, ‘religious,’, and deals with those things. I don’t shy away from but I also don’t try to. I think the film is non-denominational. Let’s say that.” (source: infamouskidd.com, January 23, 2012).
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.