The Grey (film)

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The Grey
The Grey Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Carnahan
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Joe Carnahan
  • Ian MacKenzie Jeffers
Based onGhost Walker
by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers
Music byMarc Streitenfeld
CinematographyMasanobu Takayanagi
Edited by
Distributed byOpen Road Films
Release date
  • December 11, 2011 (2011-12-11) (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
  • January 27, 2012 (2012-01-27) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[2]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom[1]
Budget$25 million[3]
Box office$81.2 million[3]

The Grey is a 2011 survival film co-written, produced and directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo and Dermot Mulroney. 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 wage a war against multiple packs of Canadian Grey Wolves, hence the film’s title, stalking them amidst mercilessly cold weather.

Released in the United States on January 27, 2012, the film received praise for its philosophical themes, cinematography, sound effects and acting, while some of the dialogue and the film's ending were criticized; it grossed $81 million worldwide.


John Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a marksman for an oil company in Alaska, killing grey wolves that threaten the drillers. On his last day on the job, he sees a wolf pursuing a driller and shoots it, listening to the wolf’s final breath. That evening, Ottway writes a letter "without purpose" to his wife, Ana (Anne Openshaw), explaining his plans to complete suicide, but does not follow through.

The next day, Ottway survives a plane crash with fellow oil workers, watching helplessly as Lewenden (James Badge Dale) dies of his injuries. Ottway takes charge of the survivors and is attacked by a wolf and rescued by the group; they realize they are in the wolves' territory and take turns keeping watch.

Hernandez (Ben Bray) is killed by wolves, and Ottway suggests they leave the crash site, but Diaz (Frank Grillo) questions his leadership. While searching for the wallets of the dead to return to their families, Diaz finds an emergency wrist watch with a radio beacon.

The group leaves the crash site, but Flannery (Joe Anderson) falls behind and is killed by wolves. A pack of wolves approaches and the survivors run for the trees, lighting a fire to ward off the animals and building makeshift weaponry. Diaz succumbs to stress and threatens Ottway with a knife but is quickly disarmed. Before he can apologize, he is attacked by a wolf, which the group manages to kill and roast for food. Ottway surmises the wolf was an omega sent by the alpha wolf to test the group. A crazed Diaz beheads the wolf’s corpse, throwing the severed head at the pack.

Diaz tells the group of his atheism and Talget (Dermot Mulroney) states that he believes in God and lovingly talks about his daughter. Ottway says he is also an atheist, but wishes he could believe or have faith, and recites a simple poem written by his father.

A blizzard approaches, and in the morning, Burke (Nonso Anozie), who had been suffering from hypoxia, is found dead. The remaining survivors travel to the edge of a canyon. Hendrick (Dallas Roberts) secures a line to a tree on the opposite side, and Diaz and Ottway traverse the canyon. Talget gets his foot caught on a hook, and the rope breaks away and he falls to the ground. Barely alive, he hallucinates a vision of his daughter, and is dragged away by wolves. Attempting to save Talget, Diaz falls from the tree and badly injures his knee.

Diaz, Ottway, and Hendrick arrive at a river where Diaz, humbled by his journey and unable to walk, explains that he can accept dying in the middle of nature. Leaving Diaz to his fate, Ottway and Hendrick continue and are set upon by the wolves. Hendrick falls into the river and is trapped beneath the surface; Ottway is unable to pull him loose, and Hendrick drowns. Now alone, Ottway angrily appeals to God to "show him something real", but seeing nothing, decides he will “do it myself.”

Exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, Ottway eventually stops walking and goes through the collected wallets before arranging them into a cross. He realizes too late that he has stumbled right into the wolves' den – the team had been walking towards, not away from, the danger. Surrounded by the wolf pack and facing its leader, Ottway looks at his wife's photo in his wallet. It is revealed that she was dying of a terminal illness, the reason he was earlier preparing to kill himself. As the alpha wolf approaches, Ottway arms himself with a knife and shards of liquor bottles taped to his hand. He recites the words, "Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I'll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day." He charges the alpha wolf.

In a brief post-credits scene, the alpha wolf takes its last breaths, similar to the wolf Ottway shot and killed earlier. Ottway lies against the wolf, his fate unclear.



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.[4]

Filming began in January 2011 and ended in March. The film was shot in forty days.[5] Although set in Alaska, the film was shot in Vancouver and Smithers, British Columbia, with several scenes shot at the Smithers Regional Airport.[6] 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.[7] 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;[8] 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.[9] The film was released nationwide on January 27, 2012.[10][unreliable source?]


Promotion for The Grey in part targeted Christian groups by issuing a "film companion", which highlighted the spiritual value of the film.[11] Marketing also partnered with The Weather Network to highlight the hazardous filming conditions.[11] 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.[12]


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.[13]

1."Writing the Letter"2:00
3."You Are Gonna Die"3:14
5."Eyes Glowing"1:25
6."The Morning After"2:57
7."Collecting Wallets"1:53
8."Wife Memory"1:09
9."Life and Death"2:52
10."Lagging Behind"1:53
11."Running from Wolves"1:46
12."Daughter Appears"2:13
13."Last Walk"2:34
16."Into the Fray"1:49


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 207 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Grey is an exciting tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters and a surprising philosophical agenda."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.

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:[16]

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 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,[17] and Slate film critic Dana Stevens included it in her runners-up for the year's best movies.[18] Film critic Richard Roeper also had The Grey in his top 10 best movies of 2012 list, placing it at number 3.[19]

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."[20] 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.[21][22][23]

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.[3]


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.[6] 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.[24][25] In response to the portrayal of wolves in the film, groups including PETA and WildEarth Guardians started drives to boycott the film.[26][27] Open Road responded by placing a fact sheet about the grey wolf on the film's official website while the Sierra Club cooperated.[27] Carnahan downplays the natural depictions of violence portrayed in the film, and instead highlights the significance of humanity's internal spiritual struggles.[26]


The film was nominated in 2012 for the International Wolf Center's Scat Award in Scare Tactics and Silly Information categories,[28] being granted said distinction in 2013.[29]


  1. ^ "The Grey (2012)". British Film Institute. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  2. ^ secondtake (January 27, 2012). "The Grey (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "The Grey". The Numbers. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  4. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (September 3, 2010). "Liam Neeson replaces much-younger Bradley Cooper in survival thriller 'The Grey'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  5. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 14, 2012). "No 'Grey' areas for Carnahan". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Liam Neeson Used Grief Over Wife's Death To Fuel Emotional Scene In 'The Grey'". starpulse. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  8. ^ "Joe Carnahan Talks About the Alternate Ending He Shot for 'The Grey'". The Moveable Fest. January 30, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  9. ^ "Stars at the LA Premiere of 'The Grey'". Zimbio. January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Grey Gets A Release Date". Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Stewart, Andrew (January 26, 2012). "The Grey looks to lead box office pack". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  12. ^ Dickey, Josh L. "They're blurbing tweets now? Yes they are". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  13. ^ "The Grey (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". apple/itunes. Apple Inc. February 14, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  14. ^ "The Grey (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  15. ^ "The Grey reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 25, 2012). "The Grey". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  17. ^ Scott, A.O. (December 14, 2012). "25 Favorites From a Year When 10 Aren't Enough". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  18. ^ Stevens, Dana (December 19, 2012). "The 10 Best Movies of 2012". Slate. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  19. ^ Richard Roeper's top ten best movies of 2012 on YouTube
  20. ^ Synnot, Siobhan (January 22, 2012). "Film reviews: A Useful Life, The Grey, A Monster In Paris, Intruders". The Scotsman. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  21. ^ Morris, Shane (February 2, 2012). "'The Grey': Liam Neeson's bleak atheist parable". BreakPoint. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  22. ^ "Camouflaged Atheism! (User Reviews)". Yahoo! Movies. March 25, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  23. ^ "THE GREY – A MOVIE REVIEW". The Trent Wilke. April 2, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  24. ^ Nasaw, Daniel. "Congress strips gray wolf endangered species protection". BBC. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  25. ^ "Salazar Announces Recovery of Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes, Removal from Threatened and Endangered Species List". U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  26. ^ a b Lynch, Rene (January 28, 2012). "'The Grey' slammed for 'bloodthirsty' portrayal of wolves". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "The Scat Awards". International Wolf Center. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  29. ^ Tubbs, Nancy. "Nomination for The Scat Awards". International Wolf Center. Retrieved May 28, 2014.

External links[edit]