I had been looking forward to The Grey ever since I first saw the trailer. Liam Neeson has become a favorite badass of mine. Which, by the way, when did that happen? Sure, he's skirted tough-guy status before: Ra's al Ghul, Qui-Gon Jinn (one of the few enjoyable aspects of a certain trilogy that I refer to as Lucas' Shame), even as far back as Darkman- but even those characters were just moderately formidable, not outright ass kickers. Add to that roll call all the dramatic turns he's taken- Schindler, Kinsey- and it sort of evens him out. But somewhere around Taken he became a legitimate, hardcore, Bourne-esque man not to be fucked with. And not just a badass, but a resourceful one. A guy who can solve any problem, overcome any obstacle, and do it in a way that makes it seem like he's done it all before. And the crazy thing is that it was such a smooth transition. Never a moment of doubt that he could kill a man with his bare hands 7 different ways. To the point where I want him to go up against The Expendables. And win. I honestly don't have a problem with his tough guy status. In fact, I love it. It just seems so... unexpected in retrospect.
Two of the most "Oh no he didn't!" moments in the movie, to me, were at the initial wreck site. First, he talked a fatally wounded companion through his own death. That takes fucking cojones like I couldn't even imagine. Shortly after, he tells Diaz "I'm going to start beating the shit out of you in about 5 seconds." Start. Start beating the shit out of you. The inclusion of that one little word makes a world of difference. Most threats of that ilk are just a proclamation that someone will beat the shit out of someone else. But for him to say he's going to start beating the shit out of Diaz? That implies that it is going to be a long, and extremely painful beating.
Anyway, I had wanted to see The Grey on opening weekend, but was unable to go. Movie pal David Novin did go see it though, and immediately after he sent me a text letting me know. "How was it?" I texted back. A noticeably long pause preceded his stark reply: "I feel cold and empty inside." Now I was even more excited. Not to mention this was sure to be a much needed action movie break from the CGI porn overload that's been so prevalent lately.
Speaking of CGI, that was by far the most terrifying plane crash I have ever seen in movies or TV. I was legitimately afraid sitting in my plush, reclining seat in a theater that suddenly felt about 10 degrees colder than when I first walked in. Dammit, Novin was right. Everything about the movie chilled me to the core, physically and emotionally. It was so barren, so isolating, so... empty. Survival in its most raw form. Add to the already tense and hopeless scenario the flashbacks that haunted our protagonist, and it was an effort not to give up myself. But as grim as it was, I had one humorous thought pop into my head- so many of the characters had flashbacks/hallucinations/visions of previous relationships: Liam's wife, one guy's sister, another's daughter. I thought it would be hilarious if Diaz, in his dying moments, had a vision of the admittedly repulsive hooker he had recently been with.
I had minor complaints with the reality of some aspects of the movie- like humans outrunning wolves... in snow; the presumption that they had enough extra gear to make an improvised rope, as well as the wolves being able to cross the same chasm unassisted and just as quickly; the abrupt disappearance of the wolves- formerly in hot pursuit- after Hendrick fell into the river. But again, these are minor points overall. Nothing so glaring as to undermine the story itself. My biggest gripe after seeing it is that they gave away the best scene (and one of the best scenes in cinema in recent memory) in the trailer. Still... soooooooo effing cool seeing him improvise some duel-to-the-death weapons and leap headlong into the face of his own certain demise, swinging for the fences as he did. (one other... complaint? in that last scene, there was one shot that showed the scar on his cheek being on the wrong side of his face. Clearly a mirror image of footage they used for some unknown reason. Seems like an amateur mistake, and it honestly distracted me for a moment)
The post-credits scene was both chilling and rewarding, in a way that only a badass could deliver. He fought that wolf to the death. And he took the wolf with him. Great movie, loved every moment of it. In my own little "I want to be a director" mind, I kind of wish they had used a second bonus scene showing a rescue team at the crash site. Just to really crush your spirits a little bit more. Make that cold, empty feeling linger a bit longer with the suggestion that had they not taken off into the woods they might have lived.