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Liam Neeson's 'The Grey' is a mostly satisfying action film

Liam Neeson's 'The Grey' has exciting fight sequences, but sometimes overextends itself.

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That said, a lot of moviegoers will likely find that certain characters and their various interactions are ultimately enough to carry the film – at least from action set piece to action set piece. Neeson offers his usual subtle but likable intensity – whether attempting to rally his fellow survivors into conquering the elements or stamping out insurrections. While Ottway is still a pretty straightforward character, Neeson’s portrayal coupled with some compelling (but not overdone) flashback material, makes him a worthwhile focal point for the unfolding events.

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However, it’s those unfolding events that truly make The Grey a riveting moviegoing experience. While survival experts and especially outdoorsy types will likely be able to poke holes in a number of the man versus nature scenarios depicted in the film, any potential inaccuracies aren’t likely to affect regular viewers. Maybe ignorance is bliss?

For the rest of us, The Grey presents a number of unique and equally tense set-pieces for the survivors to encounter – keeping the tension up without simply watching the wolves take down one survivor after another. The wolves are definitely responsible for a lot of carnage in the film (a controversial depiction itself); however, their overarching function in the story is to keep the survivors moving – forcing less-capable characters into dangerous life or death scenarios. Without listing (and spoiling) the set-pieces, it’s fair to say that Carnahan definitely utilizes a variety of potential challenges the survivors would face in the Alaskan wild – leading to a couple of truly intense moments.

Between the (sometimes thin) character interactions and the riveting action set-pieces, Carnahan also injects a number of philosophical ideas (about death, love, and nature) that may entice some moviegoers, but most of which are never entirely wrapped up in a way that makes the added effort really sing. As a result, the end of the film itself could be somewhat of a sore spot for audiences – as certain elements of the finale are earned, while other aspects are jumbled together without any real payoff.

The Grey is ultimately at odds with itself – and at times, over-extends its reach. Fortunately, even if there are problems, Carnahan’s ambitions help The Grey be a better film than his earlier efforts. Another noteworthy performance from Liam Neeson keeps most of the character moments engaging (in spite of thinly formed supporting roles) and the man versus nature scenario offers a number of memorable set-pieces (even if the director chose compelling action over uncompromising believability from time to time). The Grey might not be the next Alive – but there’s no doubt it raises the bar for future character-driven survival thrillers.

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

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