The Watchers

The Watchers

Monday, 13 February 2012

Review: The Grey (UK cert 15)

This is not going to be a typical review – rather a dissection, due in great part because of the way the film has made me feel.

But, fear not, I’m going to split this into two – I’m going to write a review without spoilers and then I’ll delve deeper with spoilers. So if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen the film – stop reading when you see HERE COME SPOILERS.

So the film! It’s the story of a group of airplane crash survivors, a plane that full of rough-round-the-edges men who all work at a remote oil refinery. The story of survival starts with seven survivors in the middle of an icy, snowy wilderness. This gives the film a visual palette that could have been easily overused, with photography danger of a white-out screen. Joe Carnahan escapes this visual representation of a snowscape – a director of photography’s nightmare. The director gives us a chilling enemy to our characters, in many ways twice as fierce as the story’s real villains- the wolves (which are unfortunately underused) When they are on screen they are great, scary and realistic. What lets them down is how the filmmakers have badly edited together the attacks of the wolves – using far too many close-up shots and the shaky cam technique!

Their journey over the course of film is, I’m glad to say, backed up by a quite frankly fantastic first act. The build up in the opening scenes, where we’re introduced to this lonely, outcast world the men live and work is just superbly carried out. Liam Neeson is set out as a man at the end of his wits, hearing his inner monologue was fascinating and well written and shot.

However, the film never lives up to this great introduction. The film revs its engines up and delivers a great 20-30 minutes of cinema. But, as soon as the plane crashes and dumps these men into wilderness, as does the director who dumps us into a wilderness of never ending clichés and obvious plot devices – where (sadly predictable) one by one each man dies and leaves us with the star Liam Neeson alone to face the wolves! 

The film gives us an interesting premise but fails to deliver any real feeling of terror, any caring for characters and a lacklustre ending (which is not a spoiler, just an opinion!)

I would give it 2 out of 5- and I’m being generous.


The greatest misfortune this film has is the pace. We see characters die, namely the first two deaths – the first being genuinely scary (if predictable) when the first night of the crash they sleep in the wreck and each take watch – the first death is the man on watch taking a pee! From this moment on, it’s as if the director has taken a pee all over the movie. The next death is the weakest of them – who is walking at the back of them- this would never happen and such a disappointing death to what is easily the most interesting and well-rounded of the characters.

But what comes after this is, beyond a doubt, terrible – it was here that I said to myself  ‘one by one they’re going to die  and leave the star of the film alone at the end’ – what’s worse is I was right!

Each death become ridiculous – the only death that was fitting within the story was one of them dies in his sleep in the cold, the others are dispatched through drowning (while getting his foot stuck), one gives up and sits and waits for the wolves and the worse example of all – during one of the heinous dialogue scenes where they’re talking round a campfire sharing stories of home, one man actually says ‘when I get home to my little girl....’ ‘I heard this much and all I could hear in my head was … DEAD!  And guess what? One scene later, after falling from a tree, the wolves eat him at the bottom!

This film was about people travelling to survive – I was thinking all the time watching this ‘shall I travel to the exit and survive or see what the ending is?’  I waited for the ending – which is the worse part of the film – they all die. THEY ALL DIE!!! The film ends on a bleak note where Liam Neeson tools up with a knife and some broken bottles and the wolf runs towards him and....... that’s it! The screen went black and we’re left knowing he dies. Don’t get me wrong, bleak endings can work (case in point, The Mist) but it didn’t work here.

This film is by far the worse film I have seen in years. 


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