By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin January 27, 2012 at 1:21AM
Liam Neeson is one of those actors who validates a film by his mere presence in it. Sure enough, he brings gravitas and credibility to this survival thriller set in the snowy wilderness of Alaska. I wish he’d also brought along a better script.
Like today’s other mainstream release, Man on a Ledge, The Grey isn’t a turkey or an embarrassment. It’s a formula-driven movie that takes far too long getting where it’s going.
The story: a handful of oil-rig workers survive a disastrous plane crash. Neeson has the knowhow and the guts to lead his cohorts in their desperate attempt to stay alive without food, water, or shelter, surrounded by menacing, hungry wolves.
There are some good, scary moments involving wolf attacks, and the threat these glowing-eyed predators provide, especially at night. In rare moments of calm, the workers deliver speeches about their loved ones and the lives they may never be able to reclaim. Whenever things get too quiet, or seem to be safe, POW! It’s that kind of movie.
Perhaps if director and co-writer Joe Carnahan hadn’t padded out his film to two hours he could have gotten away with such a familiar narrative. (The source material was a short story, not a novel.) As it stands, the picture delivers the requisite scare moments and scenes of human endurance we associate with survival stories. But it never rises above the routine. Liam Neeson deserves a better movie for his talent, and so do we.