There are plenty of survival movies out there. Some are good, many are bad, but if there's one thing that unites them is that it's an often familiar scenario. Is there much that hasn't been done in this genre? Perhaps not, but The Grey's real strength lies in the fact that whilst the setting isn't anything new, the execution feels unique and fresh which elevates this far beyond the average.
Joe Carnahan is probably best known for The A Team, but don't let that put you off. Look a little further back and you'll see that the fantastic Narc also sits on his CV. And The Grey is very much Narc rather than his recent disposable action-movie fodder.
Liam Neeson is living a depressing existence in an unnamed wilderness, working for a petroleum company and protecting the workers from the local wildlife. Within 10 minutes of the movie opening we see him on a plane shipping out for a break, before all hell breaks loose. Cue a spectacular scene which finds Neeson waking up in sub zero temperatures and covered in snow, surrounded by bleak, cold wilderness and just six other survivors for company.
That's all I'll say on the plot, because I think the less you know the better (in this case). What I will say, however, is that The Grey is a spectacular piece of film-making. The script is excellent as are the performances, and where I initially found myself rolling my eyes at the "stock" extras, this soon changed - the characters really develop as the film moves at a pace. A desperate, haunting atmosphere pervades the whole film, no doubt supported by the amazing cinematography and an equally impressive soundscape, and I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout the duration, constantly thinking "how are they ever going to get out of this?"
In terms of the Blu-Ray...awesome. The video presentation is top notch and while there is a heavy veil of grain in many of the scenes, it's wonderfully cinematic. To pre-empt those reviews which will complain about picture quality, please be aware that this is exactly how the director intended the film to look. It's detailed but rough, but this doesn't make it a poor bluray in any way shape or form!
The real standout on the Blu-Ray is the audio. A reference quality soundtrack through and through, it really puts you in the middle of the film. Surrounds are active and everything is well prioritised. Dialogue is actually slightly recessed meaning you sometimes need to concentrate to hear what the actors are saying, especially when the surrounds are howling with the wind and snow...but I believe this is deliberate and as such it works.
The dynamic range is very wide, and the contrast between quieter moments of reflection are brutally punctured by the harsh environment and events. It's one to make you jump occasionally, and certainly grin that you invested in a surround system :)
So, an accomplished thriller, familiar in scenario but unique in execution. And a first class BluRay to boot. What's not to like? A solid 5 stars...