Survivor Man just got real.
So my little “Choose Dave’s Adventure” contest ended in an exact tie, with one vote cast for The Grey and one vote cast for One for the Money (by my best friend, whom I think is screwing with me). However, I was feeling like crap and opted to cast the tiebreaker in the direction that would cause me the least pain.
Overall this movie was very good, at least in a couple very specific directions. I don’t know what kind of pain Liam Neeson (the Phantom Menace, Shindler’s List, Taken) has experienced in his life to allow him to project so much darkness all over the screen, but it must have been pretty heavy. No one else can project so much pain and despair combined with anger and gritty realism. He carries the movie entirely on his back, with a support cast of disposable heroes along give him a framework upon which to showcase suffering.
Before I get much deeper into this, let me say that if you have any kind of deep seated fear of plane crashes, being eaten by wild animals, or freezing to death in the Alaskan tundra than this is probably not the movie for you. This movie shows these deaths in a manner that makes you feel like it is you who is getting disemboweled. I will call this a credit to the director, Joe Carnahan (A-Team, Narc, Smokin’ Aces), and say further that this movie is far, far scarier to watch than any film about a goofy supernatural hockey mask wearing maniac risen from the dead to kill teenagers with a chainsaw (Friday the 13th image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category). The fact that these deaths not only could happen but actually have makes them far more graphic and horrible.
Let me also give myself a self congratulatory pat on the back for my prediction about this movie, that there was some factor making the wolves unusually aggressive, being more or less true. Feel free to call me the movie Nostradamus.
In the movie, Liam Neeson plays John Ottway, a sharpshooter hired by an oil company to shoot wolves, bears, and such in order to keep the oil workers safe. He is plagued by his wife leaving him and suffers from suicidal thoughts. He boards a plane for Anchorage which goes down for unexplained reasons (ice buildup on the wings is implied, but never confirmed. Nor does it really need to be). The plane crashing scene is as horrific and realistic as possible without actually throwing the theater you are sitting in down a cliff and setting it on fire. He and six others manage to survive relatively intact and set up a camp in order to not freeze to death. That night they encounter a pack of timber wolves who attack and kill one of them. Don’t make the mistake of seeing these wolves as being like dogs, by the way. They are huge and scary like nothing you have seen before. Anyway, they decide they need to get out of the area before they freeze to death or get eaten. Thus the long trek through the frozen woods begins, with member after member of the party dying with standard regularity, usually just after we learned more about them and got to like them. I want to give props to director Joe Carnahan for managing to make the audience really identify with and like his characters before killing them off. The fact that they were all gritty oil workers rather than vacuous teeny bopper contributed to that.
That’s pretty much the entirely of the movie. I don’t want to give any spoilers but want to say this movie was really, really scary (making the life of the loner movie critic going solo to see this stuff that much harder. I was seeing a lot of wolves out of the corner of my eye as I headed out to the car).
The stars. Liam Neeson was awesome. Two stars. Most of the rest of the cast was really great too. One star. Scary, scary movie. Two stars. The wolf CGI was very good. One star. The director managed to make me connect with pretty much every character before killing him off. One star. Overall he also managed to keep the tension ratcheted up to eleven on a continuous basis. One star. As long as you aren’t terrified of plane crashes or wolves, an excellent movie. Two stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes. One of the support characters seemed a little over the top (although he got cool towards the end) and was sort of bugging. One black hole. The pacing, which seemed spot on for most of the movie, really slowed down in the last 20 minutes. One black hole. SPOILER ALERT I don’t want to spoil this movie in any way, but if you are clever you might be able to infer something from this next point so maybe you want to skip to the next paragraph. The entire movie seemed to be pushing towards some kind of meta message about things happening for a reason and the hand of God creating fate, only to prove that there was no reason of any of the stuff that happened in this film. I left the theater with a distinct feeling of “What point was the director trying to make?” in my head. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
So a grand total of seven stars. A really good movie, if you want scary. I think the camera work warrants a big screen, so try to see it in a theater if possible. Not a good date movie, in my opinion. There is nothing going on here that will inflame your her passion, unless she is turned on by gritty middle aged men wearing six layers of clothing (in which case, after you fail with her send her my way).
A little shorter than I would like, but I really am feeling like crap and think I am going to go crawl back into bed. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If I wake up with enough energy I will probably go see One for the Money, which I expect to suck like nothing ever seen before in this universe or the three universes next to us. Feeling this bad will probably hone my bitter sarcasm to the point that I will either write the best negative review ever or just spew a bunch of random words and letters all over the screen. Talk to you soon.