Monday, February 20, 2012

The Grey review

First of all I have to say this: I dislike movies that vilify animals. I wasn't looking forwards to this movie for that reason alone, and to be honest the trailer didn't help. But I heard it was very good so, when it happened to be showing at a convenient time one day as I was looking for something in the local cinema to watch, I decided to go for it.

While this may sound like just my own inherit bias, I have to say that I strongly believe this movie would have worked much better without the wolves playing such a big role. As a survival movie, a tale of man versus nature, it is very well done. Every death matters, every character is mourned by the audience when they're gone, no matter how we felt about them while they lived.

But the wolves' behavior is out of place. They kill not for food, but just to kill. This explained as a territory thing, but I have trouble with that: even if they are killing for territorial reasons, I would still expect them to eat the corpse afterwards - they are still a pack of hungry predators after all.

What's more they come and go randomly; one minute the whole pack will be chasing the everyone, the next they'll hide in the trees howling until the humans manage to start a fire, then they'll just run off. Then a random number will appear at a random time later - well, I say random, but I'm sure the timing has been carefully chosen for pacing and dramatic effect, but it's logically random. Sometimes it's at night, sometimes it's during the day, sometimes it's just one wolf, sometimes it's the whole pack, sometimes it's two or three.

I'm no expert, but I imagine they either hunt at night or during the day, not both? More importantly, I have have a hard time accepting that, if they are protecting their territory, they'll just all run off, and then decide to protect their territory again later. Never mind the difficulty of accepting the humans managing to escape when their progress over the deep snow is so slow and clumsy while the wolves fly over the surface so swiftly.

It just didn't make sense to me, it really felt as though the wolves had been shoehorned in to make it look more like an action flick in the trailers, I guess action movies sell better than survival films? It doesn't help that the cost-cutting measures - wolves hiding behind the treeline, wolves hidden in the darkness so only their eyes are visible, close-up frantic camera work that just shows people's faces and random patches of fur or flashes of teeth - are not terribly subtle, making them feel even more out of place.

The other thing I couldn't understand was the main character himself. Surviving in such harsh conditions takes a real will to live, to keep pushing on despite the increasingly overwhelming urge to sit down and rest, just for a moment, as the seductive warmth of hypothermia sets in. But the night before the plane crash, he very nearly took his own life, so if the only thing we really know about him is that he has no real desire to keep living. So what, then, is keeping him going? A vague old poem? Everyone else had family, or at least something to live for, to go back to, but not him. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's incredibly deep and I just didn't get it.

Anyway, despite my problems with the movie, I'm going to give it a 7 out of 10 for the things it did well, under the assumption that most people won't be as bothered as I was with the aforementioned issues.

That bit with the broken bottles? Clearly there just for the trailer. I mean, he's surrounded by a dozen wolves after somehow walking RIGHT INTO THEIR HOME despite the way they were supposedly attacked for being too close when they were some twenty or thirty miles away. And yet all these wolves are just lounging around as he digs around in his backpack for some tape and tiny liqueur bottles (he was able to find the edge of the tape despite recently climbing out of freezing cold water while wearing wet woolen half gloves? how the hell do his hands even work at all right now?), then tapes the bottles to one hand and knife to the other? How very gentlemanly of them to wait. What now, do they take ten paces then turn and fire?

Plus the fact that it is literally the very last few seconds of the movie - the very last thing we see in fact - makes it feel especially pointless. As I said before, clearly just there for the trailer - which is really cheap since trailers aren't supposed to show you the very end of the movie.

Also, the bit after the credits? It was only a few seconds long and I couldn't even tell what we were being shown. Were they both dying, or only the wolf? I'm assuming both, but the fact that I don't know, after waiting over ten minutes for a 5 second clip, sounds like a mistake on their part to me.

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