'The Grey': What the Critics Are Saying

6:36 PM PST 01/26/2012 by THR Staff
Open Roads Film

Liam Neeson is praised for his performance as the leader of a group of stranded men fighting against the elements and a terrifying pack of wolves.

In The Grey, Liam Neeson stars as Ottway, a sharpshooter who is stranded with a group of roughnecks after surviving a plane crash. He leads the men on a dramatic journey against the deadly Alaskan winter and even deadlier wolves that are determined to kill them.

The Open Road Films project, which hits theaters on Jan. 27, has been received well overall by critics. Many praise Neeson’s acting, as well as the balance in the thriller between action and thought.

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“Some viewers will find the movie's slog through snow and pines longer than necessary, but Carnahan and co-screenwriter Ian Mackenzie Jeffers make the most of the time, wringing as much meaning as they can out of every test of courage and campfire bull session,” writes The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore.

“Expected man-versus-wild, man-versus-absent-God themes ring more true than usual here, though not at the expense of the promised scares: Plenty of chase scenes and gory encounters keep tension high,” added DeFore.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes, “It’s a fine, tough little movie, technically assured and brutally efficient, with a simple story that ventures into some profound existential territory without making a big fuss about it.”

“The Grey, meticulous in its choreography of fight and flight, and questionable in its depiction of wolf behavior, is notable for the thoughtfulness and sensitivity with which it addresses the thorny ethical and metaphysical matters of mortality,” adds Scott.

AP’s Jake Coyle writes that “ultimately, the film feels less like a genuine existential thriller than a movie aping the conventions of one.”

“When the filmmakers try to let the outside world into the film - in conversation and flashback memories - all they can manage are cliché images that sap the movie of depth, and keep it lost in the woods,” adds Coyle.

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“Carnahan indulges himself in ways most filmmakers would avoid: He gives several of the men, for example, extended soul-searching discussions about God's existence (or not), about owning up to one's fears, about the precarious nature of love,” writes Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. “The best parts of The Grey connect the interior lives of these roughnecks with their newfound and lethal obstacles to safety.

Amy Biancolli was not such a fan of the soul-searching discussions, writing in The San Francisco Chronicle that The Grey is “a handsome but gabby take on the standard survivalist thriller that's more concerned with lofty metaphysics than which poor blockhead is about to bite it next.”

Biancolli does praise the acting in the film, writing “Besides Neeson, who huffs and puffs with the best of them, the standouts are Dallas Roberts as a genial religious type and Frank Grillo as a hard-bitten nihilist with a neck tattoo.”

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