The Grey is a film Charles Darwin would be proud of. Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a widower who has not much to live for. His suicide attempt is foiled by a call of the wolves. Little did he know, after his ride home crashes into the Alaskan snow-capped wilderness, it is the wolves he would be running from for the rest of the movie, fighting for his life. Since the release of Taken (2008), Liam Neeson turns up every year in his action star avatar doing his angry man routine. This time he isn't seeking revenge but existentialist answers. The crash sequence is the most impressive I've seen since Cast Away (2000) and Lost, the TV show.
There are several moments where you are at the mercy of your seat and its edge. There is an especially riveting action set-piece where the pack has to hurl themselves over a deep canyon onto the trees. The director, Joe Carnahan, knows that the temporal accuracy is as crucial as the spatial experience. As a survival action thriller or a monster film, The Grey works. As a film commenting on theology, it doesn't necessarily succeed. We are told at the start of the film that his wife left him. The revelation of how she left him is saved for the end. This liberating finale is touching and for the sake of the film, camouflages the simplistic depiction of the silence of God or worse, the existence of God.
There are a number of films that deal with Man vs. Nature theme. Deliverance (1972), The Edge (1997), Into the Wild (2007) and 127 Hours (2010) immediately come to mind. But the films of Werner Herzog are the most poetic, visceral and true. The Grey ultimately feels like a philosophy student going rogue on film. Cynicism more often than not, converts to ignorance. The fact that the existentialist ramble remains on the periphery and never overrides the grim and urgent plot is its redemption. The Grey is a vastly engaging thrill-ride that doesn't stop till it bewilders.