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'Grey' brings intensity, suspense and tenderness

By Emma Rubenstein
On February 13, 2012

I am going to be completely honest. When I first decided to go see "The Grey", it was merely because I wanted to see Liam Neeson fighting wolves with his bare hands.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a meaningful cinematic experience as much as the next moviegoer, but sometimes two hours of unadulterated, unapologetic action is much needed.

When I left the theater after the movie, though, I was completely shocked. "The Grey" was everything I had hoped for in an action movie, but also managed to make me cry harder in a film than I had in a very long time. It was a masterful mixture of intensity, suspense and tenderness that left my fellow moviegoers and I incredibly satisfied when we walked out of the theater.

John Ottway, played by Liam Neeson, is a tortured soul. Plagued by the death of his beautiful wife and his childhood with an extremely rough-around-the-edges father, his life is bleak to say the least. For a living, he hunts dangerous wolves in Alaska where an oil team is drilling.

One night, he decides to end his life, but as he is about to follow through with the act, the howl of a wolf stops him. He returns to camp and boards a plane with the rest of his team, expecting to go home like always. The plane cannot withstand the intensity of the ongoing blizzard, though, and crashes into barren tundra. It is one of the most frightening and vivid plane crash scenes I have seen in any movie to date.

Ottway, thinking quickly, survives the crash by using multiple seatbelts and an oxygen mask and by laying horizontally across the seats.

When he has collected his bearings after the plane has crashed, he assembles the other survivors. Some are in shock and some are dying, but when the chaos settles, it is clear that a team of men has formed and will stick together.

When the men have assembled, they have their first terrifying encounter with the wolves that Ottway hunts for a living. Little do they know that these wolves will dictate their very existence as they struggle to survive.

Ottway is the clear "alpha-male" of the human pack. He leads the team not only because of his knowledge of wolves, but also because of his unfaltering bravery imbued in him by recurring images of his wife, played by Anne Openshaw, that tell him not to be afraid.

As the journey to survive progresses for the men, tensions rise and lives are lost in a disconcerting and lingering manner.

"The Grey" was one of those movies that are extremely hard to categorize. It was an incredible action film, but also served as a touching drama, which took it from the level of "good movie" to "amazing film."

The vast white of the snow and endless green of the forests served as beautiful yet terrifying backdrops to a physical and psychological journey that was breathtaking. A man that was sitting in the row in front of me was quite literally sitting on the edge of his seat for the entirety of the movie.

Liam Neeson absolutely shone as main character Ottway. The vulnerability in his eyes transformed his stereotypical action movie hero into a real and multi-faceted character that draws you into this film on an unparalleled level. Though their circumstances were unlikely, all of the characters created were so genuine. This aspect of "The Grey" was what made it truly touching.

This unlikely package of a movie is an absolute must-see.

The acting is wonderful, the plotline is entrancing and, above all, it shatters pre-conceptions, which is an aspect of film that is always delightful and captivating. Though "The Grey" is definitely not a feel good film, it is an experience that is unforgettable. It will leave you wishing for just one more glimpse of what lies after its mesmerizing, "please don't end here" finale.

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