One-time “Schindler’s List” star Liam Neeson may laugh at the idea of being an action star – especially as he closes in on sixty – but he definitely knows how to play a kick ass protagonist.
Following his bad-ass turn in “Taken” and “The A-Team”, Neeson’s again serving bashing sapena’s in the thrilling “The Grey”.
Neeson is Ottway, a hunter at an Alaskan oil refinery who has it out for wolves that come too close (Yes, Yes, I know…Wolves are finally making a comeback in the American West and some will no doubt snarl at the film’s perception of wolves.) When the plane he shares with some fellow refinery workers crashes during a storm, Ottway and his fellow survivors find themselves prisoners of the harsh wilderness. As Ottway knows, and the other men are about to find out, this is ‘wolf’ terrain. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.
Neeson is the reason to see this film, he’s commanding at every corner, but he’s backed up by some solid direction by Joe Carnahan (who also worked with the Irish thesp on “The A-Team”). Carnahan takes what’s essentially a seen-it-all-before story and turns it into one of the tensest, most thrilling rides of the past couple of years; for one, that plane crash sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The supporting characters have been well-cast, too; Dermot Mulroney (”J. Edgar”) as Talget, Dallas Roberts (”Walk The Line”) as Hendrick, Joe Anderson (”Across The Universe”) as Flannery, Nonso Anozie (”Atonement”) as Burke and James Badge Dale (”Shame”) as Hernandez. Mulroney stands out, giving a particularly touching performance as a man trying to stay alive to see his daughter again. All of the men’s stories are really interesting. Good turns by the actors, too.
Gotta say, the wolves didn’t look very good – quite unrealistic, in fact. In an interview I conducted with him earlier this week, Carnahan points out that the wolves are not meant to be realistic, which is fair, but these things look like they’ve fallen off the Jacob Black-reject train. Whenever one of the poor computer-generated things appears on screen, it almost takes you out of the movie.
Still, there’s a lot here to like about “The Grey” – mostly, Neeson’s extremely-commanding performance (his character’s arc, watching a man go from suicidal to someone who wants to live, is also gripping) and the actor’s enjoyable ‘survival guide to Alaska’.