Widowed husbands are frequently used tropes in action films. It delivers empathy quickly and without wasting a lot of screentime. However, what Liam Neeson does with The Grey is more than A-B-C screenwriting. No shoe-horned breakdown scenes are inserted forcefully into the narrative for the audience to get to know Ottway (Neeson). In the midst of carnal mayhem, he clutches a small picture of his wife in his wallet before he faces what seem like insurmountable odds.
He leads these men through the snow, through the wilderness, through the darkness. That the story doesn't fall into laughable territory suggests the level of gravitas Neeson possesses. In each battle with the elements and its inhabitants, the slowly dying embers of his life crackle to life a little more.
An honest reflection of grief in a film that was marketed as anything but. This is not a performance that garners awards attention, but it should.