The Grey ★★★½

At the ends of the earth a community of broken exiles exists in frozen arctic emptiness. It's largely made up of those who no longer have a place among the living. Of people who have lost a fundamental piece of themselves somewhere along the way and can never recover it. Long days of hard work and longer nights of drinking to forget what was left behind create a timeless fugue state. This half life, The Grey, if you will, may technically be living, but it certainly isn't being alive. And so, some opt to leave on an ill fated flight for Anchorage, Alaska. 

The fact that Joe Carnahan's The Grey focuses so much on the space between grief and recovery and on charting a path out was a complete surprise to me. I missed this movie on release, as the marketing made it appear as "That movie Liam Neeson punches wolves in". It turns out that it offers so much more than that. The premise is simple enough. After a plane crash Ottway (Neeson) and a few survivors have to try and make their way to safety. It's a difficult enough task made all the worse by the fact that they are stalked by a ferocious pack of relentless wolves. Being surrounded by wolves in the wilderness far from any shelter may be a little on the nose as a metaphor for death, (it could just as easily be rising tides, thirst in the desert, a sinking ship, or the rhythmic beep of a life support machine that gradually elongates into a solid tone) but it works to create an extremely tense atmosphere of desperation in this case. What elevates it is that it is all in the service of the deeper themes of the film. 

The movie makes the case that the beautiful moments we have already lived are never truly gone. They can, and do, prepare us for the end of life, as we see in the form of the memories of loved ones that appear whenever anyone is in the throes of death. They act as a kind of sword, shield and guiding light in our final moments. The movie makes the case that life is all the more worth fighting for not in spite of, but because of the fact that death is inevitable. Though there is no escape, no matter how many miles we traverse, no matter the hardships endured, no matter how lost we may find ourselves, there is always a chance that we can learn to live again if only for the briefest of moments. 

Once more into the fray.

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