Why The Grey is Better Than You Remember
By Justyn Gomez
This is the first article I’ve ever written. I’m not much of a writer but I certainly do have strong opinions about relatively minuscule things. One of the most interesting aspects of the nature of opinions is that they’re completely subjugated to individual perspective, mine of which sits firmly on the side of The Grey being a harrowing, emotional and effective tale. Today, I’m going to present four reasons to convince you that the film was much better than you remember it being.
4. THE SCORE: Sometimes a soundtrack can elevate a film to astounding emotional heights that images alone can’t, and The Grey is definitely one of those films. Sure, the imagery is more than sufficiently powerful, but the haunting piano and string compositions make the film jump off the screen, into your ears and right down to your gut.
3. THE WOLVES: Few things in this world are more terrifying than a pack of wild Alaskan wolves with one motive: to kill you. From the moment we see them charging a group of oil drillers to (arguably) the final moments of John Ottoway’s (Liam Neeson) life, they’re a constant, malevolent, and real threat. Seemingly always just a few feet away, out of the reach of the light and en masse, they remind the survivors and viewers that safety has no place in their world. Bonus points for the level of vicious genius our four-legged foes were given, which upped the scare factor by, oh, I don’t know, 18 trillion?
2. THE LANDSCAPE: Even more horrific than a band of vengeful wolves is the Alaskan wilderness itself, yet the pristine and unsullied gorgeousness of it almost made it less grim… Almost. Director Joe Carnahan and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi made quick work establishing the ever-present dichotomy of death and beauty and maintained it throughout the film. As elegant as the pure white foreground and mountainous background are, they’re also a constant reminder of the truth that all living things will eventually succumb to its severe nature. While the film heavily utilizes the aspect of a tangible threat via the wolf pack, it also perpetuated the ever present threat of inevitable death with no more than its temperament. You can’t outrun it, hide from it, or poke it with sharpened sticks. In the end, it will come for you and you will cease; it will continue to exist as it always has, in perpetual and deadly beauty.
1. THE (UN)BREAKABLE HUMAN SPIRIT: From the onset of meeting John Ottoway, we come to find he’s a broken man; from the letter he writes to his deceased wife detailing his plans to take his own life, to the barrel of the rifle he gently rests into his mouth, he has nothing to live for and no reason to continue. Yet, he doesn’t pull the trigger. It is only throughout the unimaginable ordeal that he finds his will to fight and survive. John’s appreciation for life itself is magnified by continuing on even when the other survivors have chosen to lay down, give up, and accept their fate, and by his touching tribute to the departed through their wallets. A man who resolved to end his life just two days prior had now come to understand how truly sacred human life is, and has now vowed to fight with everything he has left in him, in the valley of the unsullied and the den of wolves. The ceaseless dichotomy of death and beauty comes full circle.
The Grey isn’t perfect by any means, but what it lacks is easily overcome by its ability to illicit an extreme spectrum of emotions. Whether it’s the tingling fear of a character almost being devoured by a feral wolf, the disparity of a lonely death in the tundra, or the serene calm of a character who has completely accepted their fate and has finally decided to stop fighting. The film succeeds in blending these differing axioms into a bleak, gorgeous, and, unfortunately, forgotten feature. Do yourself a favor and give it a re-watch (or first-time watch for the apparently enormous number of you who have never even heard of it) and immerse yourself in the white-knuckling story of a man, who has nothing left to live for, fight tooth and nail for another chance at life.