John Ottway has the job at the end of the world. He’s a sharpshooter who protects oil rig workers from animal predators lurking in the wilderness surrounding a remote Alaskan oil facility in the new film, The Grey.
When Ottway (Liam Neeson) and some of his co-workers workers board a light plane for Nome, he finds out quickly that his knowledge of wolf behavior will come in handy. The plane crashes and he and the handful of survivors face an ultimate battle of survival with no fuel, food or GPS signal.
Thrown to the wolves
Worse, they’re surrounded and strategically picked off by a pack of robowolves – huge, smart and deadly. Who will prevail in this elemental test of man against beast?
Well, a different question is, why would humans regularly risk life and limb – not to mention frostbite – to extract black gunk from the ground?
As a fan of the reality show Ice Road Truckers, I might claim some insight into this conundrum. Yes, some atavistic part of me resonates to the sight of heavy machinery hauling rigging and supplies in the trackless, snow-covered void. (A New York Times columnist reviewing the series’ appeal explains that the “leave-nothing-but-your-footprints, green kind of eco-travelers are too mellow and conscientious to be interesting to watch. Instead, the burly, bearded, swearing men who blow methyl hydrate into their own transmissions…are much better television.”)
But even the most enthusiastic viewer of IRT begins to question the diminishing returns of fleets of diesel-belching trucks traversing back and forth to remote natural gas exploration and extraction sites. It’s a career choice with a built-in expiration date.
A cold day in hell
The Grey benefits from magnificent scenery (which includes Neeson’s brooding, haunted visage) and good character development.
As for the wolves of The Grey, they are a Hollywood fantasy that most zoologists would repudiate. More typical wolf behavior is to flee from human contact.
But with humans penetrating, and despoiling, ever-more inaccessible and dangerous habitats in the quest for the last drops of fossil deposits, maybe the wolves –and caribou, elk, moose, artic foxes, and polar bears –have the right to hold a grudge.
See a trailer here.
–Gerri Williams, Transition Voice