From the director of The A-Team, a thriller set in Alaska where Liam Neeson leads an oil drilling team struggling to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild with hungry wolves on their trail. Click here for movie times.
One day late-flowering action hero Liam Neeson will find his John McClane. And one day writer-director Joe will recapture the glory of his blistering debut, Narc. But though this muscular survival thriller finds both on fine form, it isn’t quite it.
We begin with a lengthy introduction to Neeson’s heartbroken hunter. He shoots wolves in the Alaskan oilfields while pining for a lost love – particularly poignant given the untimely death of Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson. On the plane back to civilisation there’s a horrendous crash, and he soon finds himself shepherding the other survivors across the unforgiving tundra as ravenous beasts prepare to attack.
Neeson, as usual, is magnificent. To quiet a mortally injured casualty, he whispers, gently, “You’re gonna die, that’s what’s happening… think of all the good things. Who do you love?” Ten minutes later he’s strapping shotgun shells to spears to make lethal “bang sticks”. How’s that for all-round action heroics.
Carnahan’s no slouch either. The wolf attacks are sudden, frantic and terrifying, the dialogue is spare and smart, and there’s real emotion amid the machismo. While the intrusion of mundane detail – blizzards, tiredness, exposure – adds to the realism, it strips away too much of the excitement. Later, a wildly unlikely leap into the unknown does the opposite.
Pity, because as a grown-up action film about a silver fox taking down big, bad wolves, The Grey really delivers. As a bid for the major league from its star/director it snatches much-better-than-averageness from the jaws of awesomeness.