The Grey Review

The Film

I wonder if the likes of Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson look at Colin Farrell's stratospheric career with any envy. The kind of career that means he is frequently the first choice for large budget films, or able to muscle in on the projects he chooses because of his own star power. Farrell made it big younger, has had box office his older Celts can't and enjoys male totty status that the other two men have never got anywhere near.imageStill, name me a film where Colin Farrell gives a performance like the one Byrne gives in Miller's Crossing. Name me an ensemble movie where Farrell acts the arse off everyone around him, like Neeson does here in Joe Carnahan's The Grey. I can't imagine you could convince me or many others that Farrell will ever create in audiences the kind of enduring impressions that Byrne and Neeson have as Tom Reagan or Oskar Schindler.

Back to Neeson though. Few 60 year old actors can convince as a suicidal survivalist and few actors of any age could carry the world weariness and instinctiveness that he portrays here. He plays Ottway, a suicidal Irish huntsman hired to protect oil workers in Alaska from the prevailing wildlife. Travelling home with his colleagues, their plane is ripped apart in the best plane crash sequence since Peter Weir's Fearless. Lost in the frozen wastes, the handful of survivors find themselves stalked by wolves and cut off from rescue.imageJoe Carnahan (The A-team, Smokin' Aces) benefits from a sound cast, amazing locations of stark natural beauty and some solid decisions that keep the focus on human drama rather than unseen monsters. Taking a page out of great ensemble movies like Carpenter's The Thing or Lumet's 12 Angry Men, he judges the association of these men just right with enough backstory to make the audience care for them without outright manipulation through cheap sentimentality.

Neeson though is the film and who knows what reserves and real life dramas he channelled to make Ottway so memorable. For an actor who often ends up in total tosh paying the bills these days, this is a great opportunity to remind everyone just how powerful he can be when not required to ham it up as Greek God or George Peppard substitute. That The Grey is so tense, so involving and so moving is largely down to how he draws you in to Ottway and makes poignant what would otherwise been competent genre work.imageThe Grey is pretty good, and Neeson has rarely been better.

Tech Specs

EIV release The Grey on a region B locked BD50 with a lossless master audio track and an MPEG 4/AVC encoded transfer. The disc is 70% used of which 27.6 GB is the transfer itself. The film is offered in original aspect ratio and its cold appearance is well represented here with colours understandably muted with contrast a particularly important facet of how the transfer performs. Black levels are very good and detail is very sound, although not exceptional in darker scenes. Edges don't seem to have been enhanced and this is a decent looking transfer overall.

The audio track is very strong and incredibly involving for the listener. So much of this film is atmosphere and the 5.1 master audio mix is excellent at suggesting the menace of broken twigs in the effects, keeping the clarity for the dialogue and offering the occasional punch to the gut courtesy of the subwoofer. The sequence in the airplane is truly magnificent in this respect.

The Disc

The Grey boots into its menu courtesy of an EIV jingle, and, once you're there, there is a static staring Mr Neeson with a blizzard assailing him. Very lo-fi menu animation gives the product a resemblance to good old fashioned DVDs. The options offered include previews, a commentary from Carnahan and six deleted scenes, and the sole audio soundtrack along with HOH subtitles.

Now personally for my HTPC, this disc was very annoying and particular, sending messages about "rip" software and freezing in between trailers. I guess this is the price we all pay for the global fight on piracy, but I advise you to make sure your player has had a firmware upgrade recently before playing this disc.imageThe commentary is pleasingly amateurish with Carnahan even settling scores as the credits roll and slagging off some producers whilst eulogising about his "best" film and Neeson's performance. There are six deleted scenes which can't be played all at once, with one being an 11 minute extension of the campfire scene in the film - they clock in at around 25 minutes of extra footage.


A rather annoying disc of a very good film.

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