The Grey is set in the aftermath of a devastating plane crash, deep in the Alaskan wilderness. The handful of oil men who’ve survived the initial impact find themselves in the heart of wolf territory, and the enraged pack seeks to drive off the intruders, picking off the stragglers like so many wounded caribou, one by one. As they dwindling survivors stagger across the frozen wastelands, the film would like you to believe that its actually about humanity, and the differing responses and adaptations each of the characters make to retain theirs….
But is it? Well, frankly, no. While it’s really well acted (Liam Neeson STILL has a special set of skills), the CGI wolves are History Channel terrible – even when they are scooting around in a blizzard at the periphery of ones vision, they still look animatronic. Also wolves just don’t behave like that. I know we’re supposed to suspend disbelief and everything, and the filmmakers at least make a pretense of justifying the behaviour with the human incursion into wolves’ territory, but I’m just not big on imposing human characteristics (Shakespearean levels of revenge, for instance) on wild animals. And as for the humanity bit? Well, forgive me for being pissy, but: one conversation about belief doth not a spiritual journey make.
In spite of the Alaskan setting, the film shot on Hudson Bay Mountain, near Smithers in British Columbia, including scenes at the Smithers regional airport – apparently because the wilderness in Canada was closer to town. Given that the shoot required everything from the aircraft fuselage, office containers, generators, fuel, crew and all equipment to be pulled on sleds by snowcats and snowmobiles from a parking lot 20 minutes away from the location, this makes sense – another bit of evidence of the cost-risk issue at the heart of all production decisions. The Location Guide has more in a detailed story on how the production was achieved – including the challenges of filming in sub-zero temperatures.