Recently I saw the film "The Grey". This film was promoted as a film about survival, and was also said to have a surprisng philosophical message. I call the promoters liars on both counts because of that. I am not saying the film was bad, far from it, I merely call the promoters liars. It is a good film and overall I enjoyed it.
To get this review started I will simply give a rough recap of the plot. A man employed by an oil company to protect workers from wolves in a remote drilling camp in Alaska and struggling over his seperation from his wife, is caught up in a disastrous plane crash while flying back to Anchorage and stranded in the wilderness with a number of other survivors and they are forced to survive on their wits and not much else.
This is the so called survival element. Though the film does show some interesting elements and very accurate ideas about surviving in such a harsh wilderness, the film plays more like a slasher movie.
Like any slasher movie it prays off our fears of something, in this case being eaten to death by wolves. It establishes from the start that the wolves are to be the films main antagonists and I'm surprised at just how much screen time they get in comparison to natures other perils, especially frostbite.
As wolves fufill the survival element and make the film a slasher by picking off our fairly dim protagonists we get a deep look into the ideological view of both narcisism and atheism.
The films philisophical tune is essentially harsh post-modernist nihilistic thought mized with passive atheism. The nihilistic thought creeps in as we see the characters struggling and continuing to fail despite any hope spots that might seem evident and consistently portrays the struggle against nature as hopeless and futile. This lends to a meta idea that struggle for reform or absolution is useless and that all we can do in life is fight and hope our deaths are not too meaningless. The atheistic element involves a camp fire discussion where one character asks about faith, another dismisses it as a fairy tale while a third says he wishes to believe its true but he can't. This directly leads to another scene where the principal character has just lost all hope and looks skyward and pleads with a higher power to do something saying "...fuck faith! Earn it! Do something!" in response we see an empty and uncarring sky looking back at him. A hope spot could have been inserted here but the writers chose for a long drawn out sequence to emphasise that there wasn't one. This reinforced the sense of passive atheism but gave the film a tone of ranting against nature and how unfair live could be.
I found that the setting for its post-modern views was uniquely thought out but by extension was self-fullfilling. Rather than a rant of how unfair life could be it showcased the deep uncaring ways of Earth and nature around us and seemed to mock the use of prayer. But by its very setting it merely proves the point of an uncarring Earth and not any sort of uncaring God, rather the writers knew this and decided to add the long sequence of empty sky in order to make that point. That and ensure that they kill the obviously religious members of the cast in rather cruel ways. Clever, but hardly proving the point. Instead of making an atheistic point it relies on old arguments of "why would God let this happen?" one which, mixed with many of the characters attitudes and various ineptitudes is rather uncompelling.
Though somewhat depressing due to its subject matter and portrayal I found the movie interesting but couldn't help be irritated once it abandoned its interesting survival premise and became a more predictable slasher film harping on an irritating ideological agenda. I reccomend it for those who enjoy slashers, not any sort of deeper ideological experience.
All in all I'll be generous and give it two and a half stars.