Onetime indie stalwart Joe Carnahan takes his rather cartoonish brand of testosterone into the wilds. The Grey follows a gnarly group of oil-rig workers—“Men unfit for mankind”—who survive a plane crash and find themselves trapped in the Alaskan forest in subzero temperatures and hunted by ferocious wolves.
Continuing his transformation into current cinema’s most unlikely bad-ass action hero, Liam Neeson (who also starred in Carnahan’s The A-Team) plays the gruff, foulmouthed leader of the pack—of survivors, that is. It’s a distinction that begs to be made because the film goes to some lengths to draw parallels between man and beast. “You’re not the animals—we’re the animals!” the most rabble-rousing of the bunch (Frank Grillo) screams with indignant desperation into the snowy void. The wolves—mostly rendered in lackluster CG—respond, in accordance with their territorial imperative, by picking the men off one by one.
There are some crackling action sequences and gory highlights, and the cast (which also includes Dermot Mulroney and Dallas Roberts) is uniformly good in surprisingly fleshed-out roles. But what should have been a delight for fans of the survival genre stumbles mainly by taking itself way too seriously. Much of the running time in this overlong film is wasted on philosophizing about love and loss, ethics and faith. In the case of The Grey, less would have decidedly been more.