The real purpose of this set-up is to create a primal existential context. Like Alien, this is a palaeolithic drama, with humans pitted against creatures who match us or out-match us in cunning and ferocity. I see in fact that the executive producers are Ridley Scott and his son. This film is successful in capturing that core feeling, and maintaining it throughout without becoming overly mawkish or macho (you might disagree, it teeters).
It's written and directed and produced by the same person - Joe Carnahan. I have a sort of alarm bell about that, one man film projects can be simplistic and self-indulgent, particularly when they venture into philosophy. Seraphim Falls for example dealt with this same nexus of snow, survival and existentialism, and that was disappointing. The Grey has no quirky surreal stuff; it's played straight and fairly restrained, and is the better for that. Neeson does a good job, being enormous and brooding. The parallels between his own behaviour and the alpha wolf are laid on with a trowel: it's not subtle. But you know, I liked it fine. It's a simple film with a small cast, beautiful location filming, straight forward action story, male bonding, bish bosh job done.