Liam Neeson taps into his wild side in "The Grey".
Mix two opposites of film-making – the black of nail-biting suspense and the white of introspective human drama – and you end up with The Grey.
There's a lot to like about the latest film from director Joe Carnahan, whose recent cinematic output such as The A-Team and Smokin' Aces has ramped up the popcorn action since his excellent Narc was released a decade ago.
While not gung-ho like his recent films, The Grey sees Carnahan deliver a film with plenty of action, mixed with observations about faith, love, and the human spirit.
The Grey plays like a mix between two underrated gems - The Ghost and the Darkness, the Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer tale about man-eating lions, and Alive, the true story of plane crash survivors tackling the treacherous Andes mountains.
A plane crashes in Alaska, leaving just a handful of survivors. The sequence of the aircraft hurtling towards impact is a quite harrowing experience, and one of the best set pieces you'll see in a cinema this year.
It is just the start of the men's battle for survival, with the harsh Arctic elements and a pack of savage wild wolves waiting to claim the members of the oil drilling team, one by one.
In the downtime between thrilling wolf attacks, great acting really sells the imperilled characters' fear of death – and their lust for life.
Liam Neeson is in top form as the group's leader, while the likes of Dallas Roberts and Dermot Mulroney deliver wonderfully understated performances.
The cinematography is great – you feel cold just by studying the snow flakes pasted to the men's facial hair – while the soundtrack, both musical and beastly, underscores the foreboding sense of dread.
The Romanian title for The Grey translates to 'the survival limit', and that's a pretty apt summary of the plot. To what lengths would one go to stay alive, despite the odds?
At its most literal, The Grey describes the vast icy wilderness encountered by the men. But The Grey is also about what's in between the black and white of life and death.
It's fitting that the movie I watched prior to The Grey was Peter Weir's The Way Back, the story of prisoners escaping from a Siberian gulag and their subsequent cross-continental journey to freedom.
Like that film, The Grey is also a tale of the tenacity of human spirit and the survival instinct that wills one to stay alive, whilst battling through the harshest landscapes on the planet.
The Grey is recommended viewing for any movie buff craving stimulation of their grey matter, while feeding their lust for action and suspense.