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February 3rd, 2012

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08:44 am - The Grey
A couple of days ago I went to see 'The Grey', which is a new film with Liam Neeson. It is a simple story: an oil company plane goes down in the mountains of Alaska, and the few survivors have to walk out of the wilderness in bad weather, and they are attacked by wolves. This film does not accurately portray the behaviour of real wolves IMHO. I think wolves would hide from the living humans as they walked away from the crash, and then scavenge the abundant corpses left behind. A marginal animal in midwinter will maximise calories gained to effort expended. I think you just need to get past that, perhaps by assuming that there is a new species of wolf living in remote Alaska, or something.

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.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:February 3rd, 2012 09:50 am (UTC)
I think there's a pretty broad consensus that the behavior of the wolves in The Grey is not realistic for precisely the reasons you cite. I even have a vague recollection of reading that some wildlife preservation groups were concerned that the movie would build on the wolf's already-not-great public image and encourage efforts to hunt them, but I can't find the link.
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Date:February 3rd, 2012 09:52 am (UTC)
There should be some kind of disclaimer, perhaps with David Attenborough cuddling a wolf. The wolves obviously serve a philosophical function rather than a realistic one. OK to suspend disbelief, but they are lovely animals and I wouldn't like even one to be hurt by some idiot who saw this film.
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Date:February 3rd, 2012 11:00 am (UTC)
I've seen the film reviled for the (alleged) fact that several wolves were killed so that the cast could be filmed eating them.
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Date:February 3rd, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
I assumed it was not a real dead wolf. The live wolves weren't real at least.

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