The Grey is a relentlessly brooding film which provides the protagonists (and us) with little release from the terrifying situation that they find themselves faced with. This is a film that clearly demonstrates that a horror film can be all the more effective for being rooted in reality, rather than a world where, say, a terrifying man hunts you in your dreams.
The film charts the struggle for survival that occurs when an airplane carrying oil workers crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. Those who survive the crash find themselves fighting for their lives against an indifferent force of nature – wolves.
The man vs. wild elements here really worked for me. The wolves are an unpredictable foe that can be fought, but not defeated. The director, whose work up until now has been no indication that he had such a well-balanced film in him, wisely chose to leave much hidden. The wolves are only clearly visible on a few occasions, the rest of the time being masked by shadow or camera angle.
The motivations of the wolves are unknowable (beyond the basic exposition given my Liam Neeson’s Ottway) and its their relentless, yet chillingly organised, process of attrition that provides the focus of the fear they create.
Above all else, The Grey is just a compelling and exciting film. The relentless pace ensures that the film never drifts into depression yet it doesn’t get in the way of some effective, economical character-development. From the moment the plane crashes, it feels as though the characters are constantly hunted in a realistic, yet entertaining, way.