Plot: What’s it about?
I don’t remember a whole lot from High School not because I didn’t pay attention, but that it was just so long ago! One thing that stuck out, however, was a lesson from my Literature class. In this class we learned of the three themes of stories in that essentially every written work can be classified into. Man vs. Himself, Man vs. Man or Man vs. Nature. If there’s one thing that The Grey fits in, it’s got to be the latter. I don’t think we realize what a fragile, delicate balance we live in with the world and that if things really got a bit dicey, how easily we could be wiped out. I’m going somewhere with this, I assure you. Man has plenty of internal conflicts as evidenced by the main character of this film. But put a man out in the middle of nowhere with hardly any food or water and the balance of power shifts. No guns, no means of defense. It can be a scary place and with only our intellect as “self-defense” do we have an advantage over anything else on the planet.
Ottway (Liam Neeson) is good at what he does. His job is to take out wolves via a sniper rifle so they don’t, well, eat the employees of an oil refinery. But life in Alaska isn’t exactly a holiday and Ottway has had nearly enough. He’s lost his wife (a sad parallel to Liam Neeson’s real life) and is about to end it all, but something holds him back. En route to a 2 week vacation he and the other workers board a plane only for it to crash land in, literally, the middle of nowhere. Hurt and frightened there are 7 survivors who have no idea what to do and to make matters worse, they’re being stalked by a pack of wolves. Ottway seems to think that there lies more safety in the trees a few miles away, though I’m sure the wolves would hunt them no matter where they are. One by one, the men get picked off all the while bonding with one another and setting aside their personal differences. It’s Man vs. Nature. Who will triumph in the end?
There are a lot of ways that The Grey could have gone and I rather liked the way that it chose to go. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in the disc. Would it be a movie about werewolves? A few minutes in I thought it would be somewhat akin to Alive and further in still, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I was enjoying it and Neeson and the ensemble cast made it all work. There’s something about looking death in the eye (or in the “eyes” as the case may be) that changes a person. All of the sudden it’s not about the superficial things, but fighting for your own survival. The Grey had a way of taking the viewer in and not really not letting go. I, for one, found it entertaining and enjoyable. And if I ever had any inkling as to an Alaskan vacation, I think I’ll pass and go somewhere warm.
Video: How does it look?
This is a tricky movie to classify visually and assign it a score. On one hand, the starkness of the Alaskan frontier permeates the screen giving off an eerie white glow. There are mountains in the background with intentional grain and grit in the sky. There’s some banding in the clouds as well. None of that is “good.” And then there are the nighttime scenes in which the black levels and contrast are rock solid. We can see the facial hair of every one of the actors, the scrapes and scratches proliferate. With detail this good, it’s hard to imagine how the daytime scenes look so inconsistent. Still, this 2.40:1 AVC HD image I’m giving the benefit of the doubt as it’s a new movie and I believe that the daytime scenes were intentionally altered to give it more of a surreal look.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a selected few moments that are truly amazing. LFE are involved, all the surrounds kick in at just the right time and it makes for a very immersing soundtrack. I’m exaggerating here, but you feel like you’re in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness here with the wind whipping all around you. Yes, I think the temperature in my living room felt like it went down ten degrees (that’s the exaggeration part). Vocals are strong and crisp and Neeson’s firm and booming voice sounds crystal clear. This is a strong mix that makes the movie that much more entertaining.
Supplements: What are the extras?
While the disc doesn’t contain too many supplements, the ones included are fairly engaging. We start off with a commentary track by director Joe Carnahan and his two editors. It’s a fairly interesting track full of some technical tidbits, though there are a few more spaces than I’d hoped. Six deleted scenes are also present, running nearly twenty minutes.