Alaskan refinery man John Ottway (Neeson) may be a crack shot with a rifle, which he uses to take down stray predators, but his people skills are nonexistent. Doesn't matter if there's a bone-crunching bar brawl going on or if a guy's trying to make getting-to-know-you small talk---John will either ignore the situation or shut it down with hard-stare terseness. Like a movie star of yesteryear, this man of introverted inaction wants to be alone. Then he boards a doomed flight to Anchorage.... Liam Neesonites surely know what comes next in Joe Carnahan's alternately tense and fatuous thriller. The plane goes down in the snowy wilderness (a superbly terrifying sequence) and a ravenous pack of wolves play Ten Little Indians with the ragtag, all-male group of survivors whom John tries to lead to safety.
Moment to moment, the film is gripping and beautiful to behold (props to cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi for the mesmerizingly grainy, achromatic visuals). But caveat emptor to those expecting a hinterlands gloss on Taken with rapacious curs in place of nefarious Albanians: Carnahan and company are after meatier game, heavy on man-versus-nature existentialism of the sort that incorporates on-the-nose monologues and cringingly gauzy flashbacks to lost loved ones between each painterly animal attack. By the time John turns into an arctic-circle Ahab for the film's pompously truncated finale, The Grey has devolved into goopily pretentious machismo---Neeson might as well be bellowing, "I'm making art!" in his best Captain Caveman.
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