The Gray

Spoiler alert.

Not that you care. Scientists at UCSD have shown that people actually prefer stories when they have advance knowledge of the plot twists. Maybe movie companies have figured this out, because the trailer for The Gray has the final two shots of the movie in it. Not, mind you, the final stunt, like in "Mission: Impossible" where the trailer featured (SPOILER ALERT!) Tom Cruise being flung from the exploding helicopter onto the train, which I always thought was the ultimate in bad-faith -- but the final two shots of the movie. So (SPOILER ALERT!) you never see Liam Neeson go mano-a-mano with the alpha wolf. You know, like was promised in the damn trailer when they showed Liam Neeson with the mini booze bottles strapped to his knuckles and growling. CUT TO BLACK, ROLL CREDITS. Yeah, that's the end of the damned movie.

No pata-a-bottelo fight between Liam Neeson and the Wolf King. Which isn't gray. It's black. Wait! The Gray isn't the wolf! It's Liam! He's morally ambiguous! Or middle-aged! Or, subsequent to standing against the wolf-king, will return as Liam the White! No, that's not it. Let's go for morally ambiguous. Yeah, that's it. "The Gray" isn't about the battle out there, or out there, it's about in here (point at head)… And the battle in here (point at heart).

It's also about how very, very ominous coughing is. Maybe the whole movie is a dream of a man dying in a tuberculosis ward. That would make about as much sense as the purported plot, which is that Liam is a wolf-sniper for a let's-say-oil-company on Alaska's North Field. Liam dreams of lying beside his wife, who died of let's-say-cancer, and who tells him not to be afraid. But Liam is afraid, as he tells Diaz-The-Hard-Case. Liam says "Any man who isn't afraid is a liar, or a damn fool." Actually John Wayne said that in "Sands of Iwo Jima" but Liam says something awfully similar. And then he alpha-rolls Diaz-the-Hard-Case, pisses on him, and the Wolf King realizes that there are two Wolf Kings afoot North of the Wall. And There Can Be Only One!

Or maybe there are, like, dozens of Wolf Kings. Because after Liam survives falling out a jet (soft snow) and puts together a rag-tag band of misfit survivors (a hard case, a philosopher, a couple guys in red shirts, and a token black dude) Liam explains that they can't stay at the wreck site, what with its shelter, supplies, and attraction to rescuers. No, they must "wait until sunrise, figure out which way is South, and walk to help." Which makes sense because, obviously, if you're so deep in the Alaska backcountry that the company just writes off jet crashes (they actually say that -- "What do they care? Do you know how much payroll they save by letting us die?") then obviously the smart thing to do is hike to Anchorage.

Which is smart, too, because the plane crashed within the "kill radius" of a wolf den -- the radius around a den in which wolves kill all living things…

OK, so at this point in the movie I told myself "OK, fine, it's not Alaska. It's Ice Planet Zebulon and they aren't wolves, they're Shark-Wolves. And, you know, I'm going to ignore the business about it being cold but no one putting their hood up or even zipping up their damn parkas. It'll be fine. Trust in Liam."

…So they walk. They walk miles and miles. They walk so far that Diaz-the-Hard-Case becomes Walt Whitman and accepts his fate as Meal #8 for… Well, apparently the Wolf King and his pack. Or maybe it's another one, because not only have they walked miles and miles and left the "kill radius," they've scaled a cliff separating them from the tundra.

Which brings us to the cliff scene. No, screw it. I can't even try to back-project logic, physics, and continuity onto that sequence. There's a cliff. They get down the cliff. They keep going. The wolves continue to attack. So apparently the wolves got down the cliff, too. Presumably also by jumping into trees and then climbing down them. Or maybe at the end they're battling a different pack of shark-wolves.

But I'm going to assume they're battling the same wolf pack and the same alpha Shark-Wolf. The movie doesn't have the courage of its faux-Existentialist convictions to present "Well, actually it's just shark-wolves all the way down." No, no, there is an alpha Shark-Wolf King and eventually, eventually Liam must confront it.

Personally, I expected Liam to bottle-punch the Wolf King to death and then stand, bloodied and alone, in a ring of wolves who approach and slowly herd him into their den where they lick the blood off him and submit to him as the new Alpha Shark-Wolf. Now that would have been an ending.

But no. Cut to black, roll credits.

We don't need to see the battle, apparently, because we already know all that we need to know: Liam has journeyed through the existential tundra and re-engaged with life. We know this because of the poem he recites before doing battle. "Just four lines," he says. Written by his Da. Who stole the first line from Shakespeare and ran out of ideas on the third, so he just repeats it.

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.

What a piece of crap.

Devin says that "The Gray" is a movie to be compared to "Anaconda." Slander. You want a poem? Here's just an example of the treasures in Anaconda:

They strike, wrap around you;
Hold you tighter than
Your true love. And you
Get the privilege;
Of hearing your bones;
Break 'fore the power;
Of the embrace;
Causes your veins to 'xplode.

And that's way before the Anaconda pukes up Jon Voigt whole. And you can be damn sure they didn't show that in the trailer.