WBS Movie Review: “The Grey”

Just as the name suggests, The Grey is a film shrouded in mystery. Whether the movie’s focus is one of religious/moral commentary or more related to simply exploring man’s place in the world and what he becomes when he is taken out of the civilization he has created is debatable. It’s a snowy “Heart of Darkness” meets “Deliverance” in an inconclusive but classic fight between man and nature. In short, if you’re looking for a message that is black and white, you’d best look elsewhere.

Certainly, though, one of the film’s strengths is that it may become all things to all people; viewers are free to take from the film almost any message they wish: from the starkness of an existential reality to the overwhelming power of faith… But one thing that the movie is certainly not is tame. Much like the wolves, themselves, who serve as the film’s antagonists, the feature pulls no punches in painting survival as a game that is not for the feint of heart. Blood and gore are in no short supply, but the ambiguous nature of the movie’s message deters the viewer from classifying the violence as gratuitous. Perhaps the meaning of the movie lies somewhere in its brutality.

As the film’s honorable everyman/protagonist states, “Once more into the fray…. We live and die on this day.” The very nature of this quote encourages viewers to question what life and death really mean. Is living defined by mere subsistence, or is there inherently something more important than the recycling of oxygen? Is an honorable death enough to justify a wasted life? Is there honor in willfully persevering through hopeless odds? How vast is the gulf between life and whatever lies beyond it? As the credits roll on the screen, these questions may take center stage in our minds… or we may simply be cursing the writer and director for leading us on for an hour and a half only to end the film with the biggest mystery of all… I’m not going to give away the ending, but you’ll see what I mean when you watch it for yourself.

In the end, whether you are intrigued or insulted by the nature of the storytelling, there’s no denying the powerful visual aspects of the film. Maybe it was the fact that “The Grey” was the first movie that I have seen in a “Big DDD” theatre, but I couldn’t help but to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the landscape that was presented there on the screen. It reminded me of something Stephen King said in the introduction to one of his books in the gunslinger series (Wizard and Glass, I think). King was discussing his various inspirations for creating a mythical fantasy to call his own and cited several of Clint Eastwood’s Westerns as a prominent muse. In discussing these films, King noted that today’s generation simply could not experience the same wonder of seeing the huge desert landscapes depicted on the silver screen. The vastness of the was simply too great. The expansiveness of the sterile environment was so overwhelming that it didn’t just cause King to look at the world differently; it caused him to dream up another world altogether. All in all, this was the most powerful aspect of The Grey in my eyes. In a time when the most “outdoor time” that some of us get is walking through the parking lot after work, The Grey¬†visually hurls us back into the arms of a cruel Mother Nature and makes no bones about who’s boss. But there’s also a beauty in this harshness that can’t be denied, and I can guarantee that regardless of your analysis of the film’s plot, glimpses of the snowy mountain landscapes will not be far from your mind for quite some time afterwards…

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