Thursday, February 02, 2012

"The Grey": it's a tough outdoor trip, and it doesn't have to make you feel good

When I was working for the Navy back in 1972, a fellow worker gave me a copy if a book of Jack London stories.  He was really into this.  And, oh, my father used to read westerns. 

That’s what I had expected of Joe Cranahan (“Smokin’ Aces”) and Ridley Scott with their venture into “independent film” with “The Grey” (from Open Road – is that another name for Roadside Attractions? – and LD Entertainment).

I got some of that (the “Into the Wild” and “127 Hours” and even “Gerry” effect) , but this experience was also part science fiction – without any unknown science (proviso below), part horror, and part morality play.
We’ve seen arctic oil fields in the movies before (“Fubar II”, even “The Day After”) and seen some oil hand behavior.  The protagonist Ottway (Liam Neeson), a security man at a North Slope pipeline station, claims that oil workers aren’t fit to live with people (that wouldn’t fit the movie “Armageddon”).  But when they try to go back to Anchorage, the plane crashes, and everyone is in survival, and the escape-and-evasion mode.

The charter plane crash is very well done, as are the scenes at the North Slope oil fields (filmed in Alberta, actually).  A friend had been tweeting from a plane today, and I waited until well after his landing to see something like this.

I went into this film just having seen cats star last night (and become characters in a film). I wondered if I would at least see personality from socially-oriented wolves.  I really didn't.  

My proviso on believing the movie is to wonder if wolves really behave this way when humans are lost in the area.  Here, they become the monsters from the Twilight series – and it occurred to me that Taylor Lautner, for all his physicality, is too clean cut a guy to have been cast in this film.  (By the way, in a few days, Taylor will no longer be a teenager, and therefore no longer one of America’s wealthiest teens, except for Bieber.)
It gets interesting to wonder who is the predator, who is the prey, and the like, although the film doesn't show us much about the social life of wolves or what makes them "tick" as sentient creatures.  The campfire scene is quite effective, and later the rappel over the canyon looked a bit artificial – the CGI didn’t get the distance perspectives quite right.  (Was 3-D considered for this film?) 

As to the final conclusion, I’ll let the viewer (Catholic or not) decide on the meaning for the self. But the small-to-medium Thursday night audience, at the AMC Courthouse (in a large auditorium) in Arlington, gasped, even booed.  The flashbacks didn't really add a lot in this case. 

The Courthouse has been showing more of the indie films lately, sharing them with the Shirlington.  But Arlington VA needs a modern, state-of-the art cinema, with 7 or 8 screens for indies.  Even Regal (built in the 90s) seems antiquated now.  Arlington, with a large young professional population, is a good market for independent film.

Here’s the official site link.

This movie could also be compared to the 1997 Fox film "The Edge" (Lee Tamahori) where a billionaire and two other men are stranded in a plane crash (Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, Elle Macpherson).

Picture: DC Blizzard, Feb. 2010 

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