Shade of “The Grey”

First, let me begin by saying I have a great deal of respect for Liam Neeson and enjoy his movies immensely. Anytime “Taken” or “Love Actually” is on television, I’m locked in for the duration.  Which is why I was looking forward to seeing his latest movie, “The Grey”.

The trailer promised an exciting man-vs.-wild story, complete with heart-stopping action scenes. Unfortunately, it felt more like I’d wandered into one of those man retreats where they learn how to be “real men”, coupled with survival instincts during an ill-fated orientation.

Granted, Neeson held up his end of the bargain by once again being the rugged yet sensitive character that keeps me watching his films, but if I want to spend a couple of hours watching a bunch of men cry, talk about their feelings and challenge each other’s manhood… I’d go to a sports bar. At least it’s slightly more entertaining when they’re drunk.

With that said, although the film fell short of my expectations, it was interesting to see a movie where the male leads all reveal a vulnerability and compassion towards each other — even while surviving fiery plane crashes, facing the threats of starvation, sickness, brutal cold and ultimately a vicious pack of wolves. Even the men with obvious personality flaws somehow became redeemed when it became evident they were on their way to becoming dog food.

The premise of “The Grey” may appeal to a male audience (and dialogue referring to “alpha” and “omega” and “dominance” seem to bolster that theory), but the fact that most of the characters expressed such a strong determination to return to their families — including Neeson’s character whose own longing for the woman he loves is repeatedly viewed in dream sequences — appeals more to a female audience.  Women also sympathize with Neeson’s personal story (he lost his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, after a tragic ski accident in 2009).

Overall, in an attempt to flesh out the characters and make the audience care about their fates, the filmmakers missed an opportunity to make a truly interesting movie. The action was scarce and almost predictable at points, which became a little unbearable when a movie starts to clock in at almost two hours. When the end finally does come, the audience is unsure of it being a payoff or a ripoff.

While the film, and especially Neeson’s performance, is engaging at times… audiences looking for the fast-paced action of “Taken” will likely think the latter.

I left thinking travel to the Alaskan wilderness is definitely not on my bucket list, and Sarah Palin can have it.

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