The Grey (2012): A Looking Closer Film Forum

A Looking Closer Film Forum is an evolving “conversation” among critics… a “round-table” review of perspectives from critics I regularly consult as I revise my list of viewing priorities. I haven’t seen the film yet, but these reviews have intrigued me.

Check back from time to time, as I may add more reviews to the list.

The Grey

It looks like we have the makings of a debate between these first two reviewers.

Brett McCracken (The Search) says:

… the first truly great 2012 release.

The Grey has its mind on God, or at least His imprint on it. What gives humans the grace to die well? What is it really that separates us from animals and makes us, for example, willing to appreciate a handshake, a memory, and a mountain vista in our final moments of life? The image of God which we bear. It sets us apart. It is the light that gives reprieve from the “only the strong survive” darkness. It is the light which, in clashing with the dark, creates the grey.

As if in direct argument, Steven Greydanus (National Catholic Register) writes:

The Grey is a thoughtful, tough-minded little tale of survival and attrition that sets its sights a bit further than its firepower takes it.

The Grey doesn’t cheapen life and death, and shows some interest in the big questions. But stacking the deck too improbably against the survivors is as damaging to suspension of disbelief as benevolent coincidences ushering a happy ending.

It is possible to discern a ray of grace in the darkness that surrounds Ottway. Like the real world, the world of The Grey doesn’t oblige us either to acknowledge God or to deny Him. If we choose, we can hear His voice speaking a word of reassurance. If we don’t, the movie doesn’t press the point. In the end, though, it’s on this world that The Grey has its eyes.

Then there’s David Roark (Christianity Today):

… the film often settles into a cynical outlook void of redemption and God. In many ways, these darker aspects actually trump the small, personal thread of Ottway finally coming to terms with the absence of his wife and, even more so, with his life.

He concludes that the film’s best moments…

…elevate the film from being just another action movie, or just another drama with lofty ideas yet no heart or soul. Even more, such moments almost provide enough clarity to keep it from being a complete moral vacuum. But as the film concludes and we seek hope, God, and life in the midst of the mess, we’re still left in The Grey.

And Nick Olson (Christ and Pop Culture) agrees that the film’s conclusions are frustrating and grim.

One of The Grey’s most significant problems is a predictability that seems governed by life’s supposed ontic cruelty. Not only is it almost certain that Neeson’s character is going to be the last one remaining, but the others’ deaths are sometimes laughably predictable, the only source of light in what is often an assaultingly grim experience. … [E]mptiness — nothingness — is our fate. All that remains is striving to survive.

Over in the conversation at ArtsandFaith.com, morgan1098 makes an interesting observation: “The only real peril comes from the cartoonish wolves.The frigid temperatures, hunger and thirst never seem to be real issues for these guys as they stumble about in the wilderness. … It’s all about the wolves, baby.”

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