Neeson vs. Nature: The final showdown

By Brian Chidueme |Staff Writer|

It’s official: the combination of Liam Neeson and Joe Carnahan is a match made in hyper-kinetic cinema nirvana.

Fresh off their 2010 film adaptation of “The A-Team,” Neeson and Carnahan are collaborating with each other once again. This time, it isn’t Carnahan’s blend of loud, brainless action and black humor that’s involved.

Instead, “The Grey” is both a return to form and a nod to the gritty and thought-provoking undertones of Carnahan’s 2002 breakthrough hit, “Narc.”

This is a homerun for Carnahan as well as a welcome change of pace from his previous mainstream offerings such as “Smokin’ Aces.”

This is also yet another excellent showcase from one of the film industry’s finest actors.

Liam Neeson is called to lead a small number of men in a dangerous game of ‘wolf-and-mouse’ in Alaska after a plane trip goes horribly wrong.

As gruff oil driller John Ottway, Neeson not only gives another excellent performance, but also helps breathe new life into contemporary American film-making in the first few opening minutes of the film.

The opening moments give a realistic depiction of hopelessness and the desire to give up. The film effectively switches gears into something more sinister, more terrifying and more thrilling to watch each minute.

What provides evidence of Carnahan’s skill in suspense is that there are two different forces of nature going to war against humankind. The two forces are embodied by a pack of wolves and a ruthless blizzard.

Neeson and his team, including Joe Anderson (“Across the Universe”), Dallas Mark Roberts (“The L Word”) and “Game of Thrones” newcomer Nonso Anozie represent humanity struggling to come to terms with the frank reality of nature.

This dismal portrait is given deeper meaning through a realistic and visceral screenplay penned by Carnahan. Viewers can feel Ottway’s struggles as if they were in the film.

The screenplay achieves another feat that is a rarity these days: the ability to do Ian Mackenzie Jones’ short story “The Ghost Walker” justice.

The film has some uniformly excellent cinematography from Masanobu Takayanagi, which blends and coordinates with its bleak tone and imagery.

One of the most defining and controversial moments comes in the jaw-dropping climax.

The moment comes off as controversial because it defies the convention of a well-done, happy and satisfying ending.

The final scene also provides commentary towards the tragedy and chaos of war itself, whether fought at the comfort of our own homes or out on a  battlefield.

The film implies that there are no clear winners in any form of war. The cycle continues to repeat for generations to come.

On the bright side, Liam Neeson and Joe Carnahan can breathe a sigh of relief. They made an incredible film that captures the outer and inner struggle of man vs. nature. The movie may be bleak at times, but it’s an overall awesome cinematic experience.

 

 

 

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