THE GREY (2012, Joe Carnahan): 7/10
THE GREY peaks fairly early on. A plane crashes 15 minutes into the movie, and as one of the victims is bleeding to death, he stays alive long enough for the hero to usher him honestly, forcefully, and gracefully into the darkness. In a harrowing sequence of manic terror, noisy weather, and life-or-death stakes, the film virtually stops cold in its tracks to sit with a dying man and study with earnest zeal and intense focus the perilous difference between a heart that’s beating and one that isn’t.
For the rest of the movie, NARC’s Joe Carnahan brings this weighty obsession with the frailty and preciousness of human existence into a derivative genre story — part ALIVE (plane crash survivors enduring harsh elements), part FROZEN (lonely, freezing, snowbound characters hunted by wolves), and part TAKEN (Liam Neeson kicking unholy ass), it introduces a manageable pack of dudes (some are dicks! some are nice family men!) and lets each inevitable beat land as scheduled. But the lack of originality is saved by Carnahan’s almost poetic devotion to the story’s existential core: a look at the sad juxtaposition of gorgeous scenery with deadly elements; of emotional and physical violence with the optimism of the human spirit. Oh yeah, and Liam Neeson punches a wolf in the face.