Blu-ray Review: The Grey

The Grey Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Joe Carnahan | CAST: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 5/22/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: deleted scenes, commentary
SPECS: R | 118 min. | Action | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, Spanish, French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Grey is a tense, nail-biting action movie that’s ultimately quite unsatisfying.

Liam Neeson (Unknown) plays Ottway, a depressed man who’s an expert on hunting wolves in the wilderness. When his plane crashes in Alaska, he’s one of seven other survivors, all oil workers, and it becomes Ottway’s job to lead them all to safety. As if snowstorms, extreme cold and no food are bad enough, the group is being hunted by a pack of merciless wolves.

The GreyAs the group raids the dead bodies of their friends and trudges through snow and forest, they also battle each other — such evolved humans we are — and that provides plenty of good opportunities for the predominantly male cast to flex their acting muscle.

Neeson is the obvious standout in the pack. He’s quiet, pensive, serious. Wounded on the inside, but a strong and powerful warrior out. And Neeson wears his tortured soul on his sleeve.

Frank Grillo (Warrior) is good too as Neeson’s opposite, a brash oil worker who doesn’t share Neeson’s idealistic view of their situation until he takes his anger out on an attacking wolf.

Director Joe Carnahan (The A-Team), who co-wrote the screenplay, keeps the film’s pacing taut. As soon as the proceedings start to seem relaxed — as much as a survival story like this can be relaxed — Carnahan throws in another encounter with one of those glowing eyed, white toothed wolves.

And those encounters are terrifying. But it’s not the flashes of saliva and hair, and muscle and blood that we see. The flashes are so quick and so close, we can barely see anything scary. But the sound of growls, gnashing teeth, scrapes and punches crawl across your skin. And they’re especially horrifying in Blu-ray’s 5.1 DTS-HD sound.

The high-definition picture is equally good. In the nighttime scenes, the blackness of the wilderness is deep, and the wolves’ glowing eyes bright. The red of the blood clearly stands out against the white of the snow. And the details are impressive from the big landscapes to the frozen tears on eyelashes.

What’s disappointing in the film is the unhopeful ending, which leaves us feeling like we spent two tense hours watching man fight the wild with very little payoff.

Special features-wise, the Blu-ray is sparse for action movies like this, offering just deleted and a commentary with Carnahan and editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellmann.

The deleted scenes are mostly extensions of shots from the film and don’t add much to the story.

In the commentary, the trio begin by pointing out that while they’re recording their track, they’re drinking whiskey, “the best way to watch the film,” as Carnahan says. Maybe he’s onto something there.

They keep the commentary moving, talking about the movie’s shooting, locations, special effects enhancements and the personal behind-the-scenes stories. They also talk about the philosophy behind the film, “God helps those who help themselves sort of thing,” as Carnahan says, and he poses the ending as “fate” and admits its might “piss people off.” Okay.

He describes The Grey as an “odyssey,” and I agree. It’s a good film, a well-made film, just one that’s too depressing for repeat viewing.

 

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About Sam Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.