A still from the movie The Grey.
Direction: Joe Carnahan
Actors: Liam Nesson, Frank Grillo
Set against the backdrop of an inhospitable Alaskan terrain, here’s a taut thriller that pits man against beast as well as man against man.
Though the survival-in-the-wilderness scenario is familiar from films such as The Edge (1997), director Carnahan (The A-Team) manages to transcend genre trappings while whipping up so much tension that we chew our fingernails with worry.
The set up for The Grey is fairly straightforward. A suicidal sharpshooter (Neeson, the go-to middle-aged action hero du jour ) is one of the seven survivors of an oil-drilling team who are stranded after their plane crashes in a snowy expanse of tundra.
Exposed to all sorts of peril and privation, the bedraggled bunch must not only fend for themselves against the elements but also hold a pack of ravenous wolves at bay.
Despite containing some contrivances — the squabbling among the survivors, the fragmented flashbacks to our huntsman hero’s wife and versifier father — the script develops into quite an unnerving experience.
Audience anxiety is skillfully exploited with the wolves’ attacks eliciting oohs and aahs aplenty.
Realising that their furry foes (rendered by a mix of CGI, animatronics and live animals) aren’t going away until they kill or are killed, the harried men confront their own mortality with a measure of dignity and grace.
A testament to the resilience of the human spirit, The Grey is unmissable if only for the stunning cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi.