Liam Neeson teaches blizzards and a pack of wolves that he is too fucking alpha for them
“You’re not the animals. We’re the animals!” shouts a man into the darkness. He severs the head of the wolf the group is roasting and flings it to the eyes that see them but they can’t see. Silence respects that moment of anger, and acknowledges the men’s collective will to overcome the hardships they are yet face and to come out of their ordeal alive. The silence is then broken by the dark forest howling back at them, and the group of men understands that they can’t intimidate what is hunting them down one by one.
“The Grey” is hardly a movie about wolves. It’s a movie about something much more than fighting wild animals in terrible weather.
Liam Neeson plays a sharpshooter who guards people from wolves. After a plane crash in an icy region, he leads a group of survivors from the wreckage to a forest far away where they might be sheltered not only from the wolves, whose den they are close to, but also the blizzards that give the men a break only once every few hours. The blizzards are relentless because that’s how nature can be, and the wolves are pissed off because the group is in their territory. Of the seven survivors, a few are torn apart by the pack of wolves, while some die in accidents trying to find their way out, and one gives up and chooses to not return to his life of drilling in the day and drinking at night and stops by the lake from where he can see the trees and mountains and decides that the spot will be his final resting place.
Proving too alpha for the weather and the animals, however, is Mr Liam Neeson. He takes charge right from the start: getting the men to leave the wreckage before they freeze to death, making everyone take turns at keeping guard while the others sleep, telling them the psychology of wolves, and showing them how to make weapons to fight the pack. Neeson’s the alpha of the human pack, the top dog who keeps hopes up and makes things happen.
The film goes beyond what is expected from the story. The men, around the bonfire, have their tales to tell, and the conversations often move to their questioning of faith and belief in higher powers. Near the end of The Grey, Neeson, the last remaining survivor looks to the clear sky above and demands that “God” show him something real if he’s there, that he needs it then and not later, but of course we all know how effective prayers and requests to “God” are…
The Grey moves at a slow pace without any pauses or gaps. The thrills don’t come by the minute, but prove heavy when they do come. So it’s wolves attacking when they’re least expected to be around, and having to jump off cliffs because there doesn’t seem to be another way down to the gushing water, and when the men are safe from the blizzards, it’s the beautiful mountains and trees that are as dangerous a setting. It’s men dying one after another, killed by animals or accidents or by giving up hope. It’s a movie with a heart, and has people talking about their loved ones and looking at photographs in wallets.
The movie is a lesson in alpha-male behaviour taught by an alpha male. Ottway (Neeson) is a nice guy fighting for survival in a tough situation, and this is highlighted in the last scene, when you learn why he’s been thinking about his wife so much, when he realizes that where he has stopped is the wolf den that they’d all been wanting to get very far away from. The wolves that surround Ottaway leave when the leader of the pack shows up, and the two alphas make eye contact and get ready for the final battle.