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The Grey by Joe Carnahan

March 25, 2013

Joe Carnahan is not the kind of director I keep track trying to watch everything he does, actually I normally ignore the things he does and a macho survival story like the one featured here didn’t look like something worth watching: I was wrong, nine months from now this film will find a place into my top 10 list. It will be fair to observe what Carnahan will do in the future but looking at what he has done in the past it’s spontaneous to attribute much of the good stuff in The Grey to his collaborators, two of them mainly, the brains and the looks of this film: writer Ian Mackenzie Jeffers and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi. Jeffers has to be a good writer, the plot here is quite simple and – in a way – it’s the same old story we have seen in many film the likes of The Dirty Dozen or The Perfect Storm where we get: a bunch of outcasts who found themselves into a live or die situation, lot of macho action, some thrill related to the question “will they survive?” plus some philosophical mumbo-jumbo and a lot of special effects. The Grey plays this genre with different rules, first of all a spare use of special effects – it was the Jaws lesson: the less we see the beast the more we fear it – and with a group of characters (led by an excellent Liam Neeson and an unexpected Frank Grillo) who feel alive and true to our eyes and ears.

The Grey is a genre film of course, the tension of the film comes from the extreme situation our heroes are facing but minute after minute, the more you get to know them, the more they reveal the strength and frailness of their humanity we realize their fight is our fight: technology and progress are only illusory means to forget that survival is the authentic daily business of the human race, so kudos to a writer who manages to turn genre material into something gripping and meaningful. If I wrote that I remember the previous work I’ve seen of cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi I would lie, nonetheless this guy here has made a perfect job to translate into images the good writing by Jeffers: no silly camera angles, no beautiful shots having nothing to do with the story, but spare and efficient images apt to make true and believable the hardship and pain of the story. A final note for the already mentioned Liam Neeson, what a performance! I can’t remember the last time he had created a character as good as John Ottway: actors need good writers.

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