When I was younger, about 16, before I started WordsofWisTIM and started paying closer attention to movies, I had a few movies that I hated with the strongest passion. Among the select few that were bitter enough to make the short list, The Grey was one of them.
Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors and so when my family and I sat down to watch this one night, despite how boring the back cover read, I had hope albeit cautious it was. If the back cover doesn’t look good, it’s probably not good. They say don’t judge a book by its cover. They never said anything about movies.
I watched it today (dare I say willingly?) and it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being. It was still awful, just not suckage-label awful.
A survival tale is going to be slow so try to keep that in mind when you watch it. That doesn’t mean you should excuse it. It’s still a huge problem. It’s like your corpse is being dragged in the snow by those terrible CGI-killer wolves in this movie. It’s slow and it’s painful.
The acting is pretty bad. Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo somehow got dragged into this and neither does anything worth their time. This is a movie that, at least acting-wise, could have went straight to DVD. Even Liam Neeson, who you can tell is trying, isn’t filling our appetites. The character displays aren’t even worthy of being called cardboard cutouts. They’re more like damp tissues: easily ripped apart and tossed to the curb. Why? Because they’re of little importance.
The Grey prioritizes its meaning over its characters and so when it’s not stamping its audience with the survival badge, it’s pretty mundane. There are a few snippets where something worthwhile is said but those tidbits are never related to the story being told. It’s always about the deeper meaning. For example, there’s some faith conversation and some talk where the characters tell jokes to try to separate themselves from the dire events unfolding. It would be meaningful if the writing was done at even a mediocre level. That’s the thing with a movie like this. Screenwriting plays a more substantial role than usual because there’s nothing to distract us like visual effects or humor. It’s all dark and cold like our setting and if you only put one foot into the darkness, it doesn’t work. You have to embrace it and accentuate the anchor points and the depths you want to reach and roots you want to explore. Dark stuff is hard to write about if you’re only half-involved, which I found interesting considering the film is entitled The Grey. To make grey, you mix white and black and by having half of their script in the white and half in the dark, this film is pretty grey, uncertain of which of the two roads to choose. To be fair, it’s more like 85% white and 15% black because trust me, if half of this film was excavating the stems of survival stories, I would have enjoyed this a heck of a lot more.
Alas, it doesn’t. No empathy is warranted and no characters are connected with. Liam Neeson is constantly with some girl but not until the very, very end does it tell you anything and when I mean anything, I mean like your buddy goes out on a date for the first time in a year and he comes back and you’re really excited to hear what he has to say and after he beats around the bush for two hours, he finally says, “Well, I took her to dinner,” before falling asleep. Pretty big letdown, right? You’d be pretty peeved, maybe even wake him up and force him to finish the story. Sadly, you can’t do that with The Grey because it’s a movie, not a person, nor can you see yourself carrying on a conversation with any of these people anyway. They’re all pawns in a bigger scheme, which is not what a movie is supposed to be. The characters should be your bishops and queen and king. That’s how stories are formed. Otherwise, it’s a dissertation on the darker segments of the human mind more than it is a story. Ugh, I just don’t want to talk about this anymore.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Young Guns, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Expendable 3, Homefront, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Vantage Point, The Starving Games)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy Madison, A Haunted House, 300: Rise of an Empire, Cowboys and Aliens)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice, The Contract)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Safe, Watchmen, Clash of the Titans, A Haunted House 2)
My score for The Grey: 25.
The Grey may have gotten a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I wouldn’t trust that score if I were you. On the other hand, if we’re rating movies based off of how close they are to rotten tomatoes, then that’s probably a good score for it. Easily my least favorite Liam Neeson film.