Blu-ray Review: THE GREY Is Surprisingly Light On Wolf Punching
And the whole thing is so grim, and full of hurt, and grief, and there's a strange poetry to the rhythm of it--the men walk, they talk, they occasionally fight the wolves and the elements (and each other) and they die. Neeson's character Ottway, a crack shot responsible for clearing the area around the oil rig clear of wolves knows the animals and he knows death. He's there in many cases to guide the other actors to their ends, soothing them in those last minutes. Ottway's narration throughout the film comes from a letter he's written to his wife and given what the movie is about and the hangdog expression his character wears throughout, it's clear that death isn't done with him yet.
As shot by DP Masanobu Takayanagi, the wilds of Alaska (well, British Columbia standing in for Alaska) are imposing, the trees, the mountains, the cold and weigh down on the characters. It's an imposing movie to look at. As for the wolves, we hear them more than we see them, growling and snarling in the dark and off in the distance. They're a less successful element of the movie, most of them onscreen poorly-constrasted CG creations (it's the color, which is too vivid against the snow and the grain of the movie).
Again, there's a poetry to the whole movie that upends what could easily be a simple survival movie, a bloody thing about men fighting wolves, each other, and the elements. The Grey takes its time to watch these men struggle (and fail) to survive and there's a kind of beauty in that. Don't go into it expecting Neeson to give you another one of the tough guy roles he's been unexpectedly given since Taken--this isn't that movie. It's something else, something terrible and more interesting besides.
The disc includes deleted scenes and feature commentary by director Joe Carnahan and a couple of his cohorts making the movie. Carnahan jokes that they're drinking whiskey during the viewing, and there's a certain amount of on-air score settling going on that leads me to believe he wasn't joking so much. Carnahan is candid about making some of the tough calls to get the movie cut so it has just the right tone, alludes to tensions on the set, and generally treats the commentary less like a guide to the making of The Grey and more a series of alternately fond and angry recollections.
This is a modern studio film (albeit with a slightly lower than normal budget) so you can be sure that it looks good. Carnahan goes for a slightly grainy look which makes the image feel extra textured on larger screens. The effect is scaled back for nighttime scenes avoiding grain storms. It's a good-looking disc.
The Grey is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.