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Review: The Great White North (The Grey)


John Ottway (Liam Neeson) lingers in the frozen wilderness that are the oil fields of Northern Alaska. He protects the workers from the dangers that present themselves. Beneath the solid exterior of Ottway's demeanor lies a man that is lost: his wife is no longer in his life, he sees no good in what he does for the world, he sees no purpose left. He has only a day left until he flies back to Anchorage.

The plane ride is nothing more than normal, brief bouts of turbulence offset by the testosterone-laden chatter about what the workers will do with their paychecks, girlfriends, wives, etc.Turbulence becomes more noticeable than usual and the chatter teeters out; the men are scared.

The unabashed desire to live finds itself in Ottway. He straps himself into the seat and holds on for dear life as pieces of the plane start coming off around them. Now, faced with the unlikely prospect of being discovered, Ottway and the six remaining members of the flight are tasked with leaving the wreckage and trying to stay alive. To make matters worse, these seven men are in the company of wolves. Nature is to be feared. Man has progressed from the elements, but we never conquered them. They have a choice: be taken out one-by-one, or fight the bastards.

Liam Neeson has made a career resurgence of sorts lately for playing a veritable medley of tough guys, but Ottway is a different breed. He has no qualms telling the few survivors left in the woods that he is terrified. Action films of late have suffered because the characters in them are so out of touch that audiences flinch rather than feel when presented with them. Neeson makes a point of portraying Ottway as a flawed man, but one who has found a purpose in this good fight.

Joe Carnahan abandons the escapist fun that he and Neeson sought for The A-Team. Violence is not used here for big-budget awes, instead he aims for the gritty horrors of fighting for life at any cost. The Grey excels at making these horrors more real than any film before it, but what makes the film even more notable is that it reflects that human desire for life, even in unjust circumstances. Human beings are resilient. We have fears and periods of darkness, but when the time comes and we face some insurmountable hostility, the fangs come out.

***1/2 out of ****

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