The Grey (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Grey
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Carnahan
Screenplay by
  • Joe Carnahan
  • Ian MacKenzie Jeffers
Based on"Ghost Walker"
by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers
Produced by
CinematographyMasanobu Takayanagi
Edited by
Music byMarc Streitenfeld
Distributed byOpen Road Films (United States)
Entertainment Film Distributors (United Kingdom)[1]
Inferno Distribution (International)[2]
Release dates
  • December 11, 2011 (2011-12-11) (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
  • January 27, 2012 (2012-01-27) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[3]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom[4]
Budget$25 million[5]
Box office$81.2 million[5]

The Grey is a 2011 survival thriller film co-written, produced and directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, and James Badge Dale. It is based on the short story "Ghost Walker" by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Carnahan. The story follows a number of oil-men stranded in Alaska after a plane crash who must survive multiple packs of Canadian grey wolves, stalking them during the mercilessly cold weather.

Released in the United States on January 27, 2012, the film received positive reviews, with praise for its philosophical themes, and for Liam Neeson's performance. It grossed $81 million worldwide.


John Ottway works as a sharpshooter at a remote Alaskan oil facility, protecting the staff from frequent grey wolf attacks. His wife has died from a terminal illness leaving him depressed and apathetic towards life. On Ottway's last day of work, he considers suicide.

The next day, he embarks on a return flight to Anchorage with his fellow workers and the plane crashes in an icy wilderness. Ottway survives along with John Diaz, Jerome Talget, Pete Henrick, Todd Flannery, Jackson Burke and Dwayne Hernandez and they set up in the plane wreckage. Hernandez is killed in the night by the wolves. After finding his body in the morning, Ottway states that the wolves feel threatened by the survivors' presence and thinks they may have a better chance of surviving in the nearby forest. Not expecting a rescue, the group decides to leave.

The survivors journey south with Ottway leading the way. Flannery strays from the group and is killed by a pack of ravenous wolves. At nightfall, the group is attacked again and they light several campfires to ward off the predators. Diaz, overwhelmed with stress, threatens Ottway with a knife. Ottway disarms him before the situation escalates; however, a lone wolf charges at Diaz. The group manages to kill the animal and subsequently cooks and eats it. Ottway speculates that the wolf was an omega sent by the alpha wolf to test the group's abilities. Enraged, Diaz throws the severed head of the wolf at the pack.

While the group sits around the campfire that night, Diaz discusses his beliefs and declares that he's an atheist. Talget states that while he also doesn't believe, he has faith in God and speaks lovingly of his daughter. Ottway expresses atheist beliefs as well and recites a poem his father wrote about love and faith. The next day they find Burke dead from hypoxia. The survivors attempt to cross a canyon with an anchor-rope on a nearby tree to lower themselves off the edge. Talget falls to the ground, and is killed by a pack of wolves. In an attempt to save him, Diaz also falls and damages his knee.

Eventually, Diaz, Ottway, and Henrick arrive at a river, where Diaz, injured, dispirited and exhausted, tells his companions he can go no further. After leaving him, Ottway and Henrick continue their trek, and are again pursued by the wolfpack. Henrick falls into the river and becomes trapped underwater. Ottway, powerless to rescue him, watches as Henrick drowns. Ottway stumbles into a clearing, exhausted and suffering from hypothermia. He arranges the wallets of the dead passengers in shape of a cross and recalls the poem written by his father. Alone in the clearing, Ottway realizes he has arrived in the wolves' den and comes face to face with the alpha of the pack. Facing certain death, Ottway gathers his last reserves of strength (while recalling his deceased wife's last words to "[not] be afraid") and arms himself with a knife and the shards of liquor bottles taped to his hand. As the alpha and Ottway charge at one another, the screen cuts to black.

In the post-credits scene, Ottway and the alpha wolf lie dying together following their battle.



The Grey reunited director Joe Carnahan with producers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott (credited as executive producer) as well as actor Liam Neeson, who collaborated on the 2010 action film The A-Team. The film initially imagined a much-younger lead character and Bradley Cooper, who also worked with Carnahan on The A-Team, was cast in the lead role, but he was eventually replaced by Neeson.[6]

Filming began in January 2011 and ended in March. The film was shot in forty days[7] in Vancouver and Smithers, British Columbia, with several scenes shot at the Smithers Regional Airport.[8] According to Empire magazine, in the climactic scene in which Neeson's character pens a letter to his wife, Carnahan urged Neeson to "channel his grief" over the death of his wife Natasha Richardson.[9] Carnahan disclosed, in a Q&A session following an early screening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, he had an alternative ending he never intended to use showing Neeson battling the alpha wolf. It was supposed to be included in deleted cuts;[10] however, no extras were included on the Blu-ray.


The world premiere of The Grey took place on January 11, 2012, at the Regal Cinemas Theatre in Los Angeles.[11] The film was released nationwide on January 27, 2012.[12][unreliable source?]


Promotion for The Grey in part targeted Christian groups by issuing a "film companion", which highlighted the spiritual value of the film.[13] Marketing also partnered with The Weather Network to highlight the hazardous filming conditions.[13] Open Road Films incorporated comments tweeted by film critics to promote the film in the third trailer for The Grey. This was the first time tweets from and Twitter handles for professional critics had been used in a film trailer.[14]


The Grey (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
ReleasedFebruary 14, 2012 (2012-02-14)
ProducerMarc Streitenfeld

The score for The Grey was released on CD February 14, 2012. A digital version available for download was released on January 24, 2012.[15]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 80% based on 211 reviews, with an average rating of 6.90/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Grey is an exciting tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters and a surprising philosophical agenda."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on reviews from 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of 4, and wrote the unrelenting harshness of The Grey so affected him, he departed the screening of a different movie on the same day:[19]

It was the first time I walked out of a film because of the previous film. The way I was feeling in my gut, it just wouldn't be fair to the next film... There's time for some conversation among the men, and this film, directed by Joe Carnahan and written by him and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, treats them as individuals. They're not simply a group of victims. The Grey advances with pitiless logic. There are more wolves than men. The men have weapons, the wolves have patience, the weather is punishing. I sat regarding the screen with mounting dread. The movie had to have a happy ending, didn't it? If not "happy," then at least a relief in some sense? Sit through the entire credits. There's one more shot still to come. Not that you wouldn't be content without it.

The film also earned a place on A.O. Scott's list of the year's ten best films,[20] and Slate film critic Dana Stevens included it in her runners-up for the year's best movies.[21] Film critic Richard Roeper also had The Grey in his top 10 best movies of 2012 list, placing it at number 3.[22]

Dissenters' reviews tend to focus on the film's abrupt ending, and perceive the emotional and philosophical undertones as unnecessary. Siobhan Synnot of The Scotsman gave the film two stars, commenting "On the down side, there's a lot of dull pretentious philosophizing about the heartlessness of nature and God. On the up side, you get to see a man punch a wolf in the face."[23] Some reviewers and analysts say the film has an atheist theme, due to characters such as John Ottway (Liam Neeson) pleading for divine help but not getting any.[24][25][26]

Box office[edit]

The Grey opened in North America on January 27, 2012 in 3,185 theaters and grossed $19.7 million in its opening weekend, with an average of $6,174 per theater, finishing first. The film ultimately earned $51.6 million domestically, and $29.7 million internationally, for a total of $81.2 million, against its $25 million production budget.[5]


On January 19, 2012, British Columbia's The Province featured an article about the movie's crew buying four wolf carcasses, two for props for the film and two wolves for the cast to eat.[8] This angered environmentalists and animal activists, irate because the film depicts wolves in a negative light, specifically at a time grey wolves are not on any Endangered Species Act in many western American states.[27][28] In response to the portrayal of wolves in the film, groups including PETA and WildEarth Guardians started drives to boycott the film.[29][30] Open Road responded by placing a fact sheet about the grey wolf on the film's official website while the Sierra Club cooperated.[30] Carnahan responded to the criticism by saying the film is meant to reflect humanity's internal spiritual journeys.[29]


  1. ^ "The Grey (2012)". BBFC. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  2. ^ Adams, Mark (January 18, 2012). "The Grey". Screen Daily. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  3. ^ secondtake (January 27, 2012). "The Grey (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Grey (2012)". British Film Institute. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "The Grey". The Numbers. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  6. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (September 11, 2020). "Liam Neeson replaces much-younger Bradley Cooper in survival thriller 'The Grey'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  7. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 14, 2012). "No 'Grey' areas for Carnahan". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Schaefer, Glen (January 19, 2012). "Method motivates Liam Neeson, 'The Grey' cast to dine on wolf meat". The Province. Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  9. ^ "Liam Neeson Used Grief Over Wife's Death To Fuel Emotional Scene In 'The Grey'". starpulse. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  10. ^ "Joe Carnahan Talks About the Alternate Ending He Shot for 'The Grey'". The Moveable Fest. January 30, 2012. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  11. ^ "Stars at the LA Premiere of 'The Grey'". Zimbio. January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "The Grey Gets A Release Date". Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Stewart, Andrew (January 26, 2012). "The Grey looks to lead box office pack". Variety. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Dickey, Josh L. "They're blurbing tweets now? Yes they are". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  15. ^ "The Grey (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". apple/itunes. Apple Inc. February 14, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  16. ^ "The Grey (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  17. ^ "The Grey reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  18. ^ Finke, Nikki (January 29, 2012). "'The Grey' $20M Opening Shocks Showbiz, 'One For The Money' $11.7M, 'Man On A Ledge' $8.2M". Deadline Hollywood. Audiences gave it a 'B-' CinemaScore.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 25, 2012). "The Grey". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 2, 2021.
  20. ^ Scott, A.O. (December 14, 2012). "25 Favorites From a Year When 10 Aren't Enough". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  21. ^ Stevens, Dana (December 19, 2012). "The 10 Best Movies of 2012". Slate. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  22. ^ Richard Roeper's top ten best movies of 2012 on YouTube
  23. ^ Synnot, Siobhan (January 22, 2012). "Film reviews: A Useful Life, The Grey, A Monster In Paris, Intruders". The Scotsman. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  24. ^ Morris, Shane (February 2, 2012). "'The Grey': Liam Neeson's bleak atheist parable". BreakPoint. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  25. ^ "Camouflaged Atheism! (User Reviews)". Yahoo! Movies. March 25, 2012. Archived from the original on January 1, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  26. ^ Trent Wilkie (April 2, 2012). "THE GREY – A MOVIE REVIEW". The Trent Wilke. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  27. ^ Nasaw, Daniel (April 15, 2011). "Congress strips gray wolf endangered species protection". BBC News. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  28. ^ "Salazar Announces Recovery of Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes, Removal from Threatened and Endangered Species List". U.S. Department of the Interior. December 21, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  29. ^ a b Lynch, Rene (January 28, 2012). "'The Grey' slammed for 'bloodthirsty' portrayal of wolves". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  30. ^ a b Robinson, Jessica (January 26, 2012). "Groups boycott 'The Grey' with Liam Neeson for portrayal of wolves". KPLU-FM. Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2012.

External links[edit]