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Film: The Grey

"Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight Iíll ever know.
Live and die on this day.
Live and die on this day."

The Grey is a survival thriller starring Liam Neeson and directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces, The A-Team, Narc). The film centers around a group of Alaskan oil workers who get caught in a plane crash on the way to Anchorage, and have to both survive the wilderness and fend off attacks by dangerous man-eating wolves.

The film was released in January 2012, and while some animal rights groups boycotted the film for its "questionable" portrayal of wolves, it was well received critically with critics praising its surprising substance, suspense, and Neeson's particularly powerful performance.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Pretty much everyone is way out of their element, deep in the Alaskan wilderness, and their only goal is to survive the sub-zero temperatures and wolf attacks.
  • Alaska: In all its frigid glory. Except that the film itself was shot in Alberta and northern British Columbia.
  • Arc Words: "Live and die on this day..."; "Don't be afraid."
  • Artistic License - Biology: The film's trailers, at least, do a very poor job of giving the impression that the writers understand real wolvesnote , which are known to be skittish around fire and humans, whether or not they've encountered them before. It's handled better in the actual film, where it's revealed that the survivors were treading very close to the wolves' den — the cause of most violent wolf encounters in Real Life.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted in a deleted scene.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The film ends with Ottway surrounded by wolves and getting ready for the big showdown with the alpha wolf, a knife in one hand and broken liquor bottles taped to the other. The Stinger reveals the wolf lying on the ground, mortally wounded (in a callback to a wolf breathing heavily similarly earlier in the film), and Ottway's head - only seen from the back - resting on the wolf. Whether or not Ottway survives is up for debate.
  • California Doubling: The film was shot in British Columbia, which often doubles for Alaska.
  • Canis Major: The Alpha is huge, black, and has an impressive, mane-like ruff around his neck.
  • Challenging the Chief: We can hear one of the wolves challenge The Alpha and mere minutes later the same happens with the human pack. Both Alphas win.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • Dead All Along: Ottway's wife.
  • Despair Event Horizon: This is part of the reason Diaz decides to stay behind, along with his bad leg. He doesn't feel there's any reason anymore.
  • Downer Ending: Almost all of the survivors eventually end up dying either to the elements or to the wolves.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ottway contemplates this in the opening scene.
  • Dwindling Party
  • Early-Bird Cameo: All of the main survivors appear in the bar at the beginning of the film, including Diaz who (very much in-character) starts a minor brawl.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Played with in that everyone is dead or dying by the end, which should make it a direct tragic ending. However, Ottoway finally finds closure, accepts both his and his wife's death, and confronts his fears.
  • Give Me a Sign: After the death of Hendrick, the only other survivor, Ottway screams at the heavens demanding help from God. It never comes.
    • He did keep seeing his wife throughout the movie, telling him he shouldn't be afraid. Maybe they were memories, maybe they were visions.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Justified — wolves have reflective eyes to improve night vision.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Twice.
    • The first instance is when Talget is dragged off by the wolves and a tree blocks us from seeing him get ripped apart
    • The second instance is when Diaz is left behind. We hear sticks breaking, and the growling getting closer before it cuts away
  • Great White Hunter: Ottway is described as such by Diaz.
  • Improvised Weapon: A few. Early in the film, the others fend a wolf off Ottway with various detritus from the crash. Later, Ottway fashions one-use spears from a stick, some tape, and a single shotgun shell. Finally, as shown in the trailer, Ottway uses a few empty bottles of airline-sized liquor taped between his fingers as a knuckleduster.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Diaz tells Ottway and Hendrick that he can't continue any further after suffering a knee injury. He makes peace with them and himself before they move on.
  • Jerkass: Diaz. He gets better.
  • Jump Scare: A couple, mostly involving — you guessed it — the wolves.
  • Kill 'em All: Not one person who got on that plane survives, with the exception (maybe) of Ottway.
  • Last Stand: If Ottway wasn't going to survive, he was at least going to go down fighting.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Diaz considers himself a badass who isn't afraid of anything, and mocks Ottway for admitting that he's scared. He's quickly shown how foolish his bravado is.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "It's their fuckin' den!"
  • Nature Is Not Nice: The freezing weather, lack of food, and presence of wolves are all treated as completely impersonal rather than actively malicious, and Ottway's Rage Against the Heavens moment makes his helpless fury in the face of such indifference very clear.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The marketing traded very heavily on Liam Neeson's fame from Taken. The movie itself is decidedly not "Bryan Mills punches wolves to death for two hours."
  • Nothing Is Scarier: While we do have plenty of scenes with the wolves onscreen, there are other times where we only hear them.
  • Not So Different: Ottway and the Alpha, both are doing everything necessary to protect their Packs. Ottway even goes as far as making makeshift claws out of a knife and broken bottles during the Last Stand
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome/Never Trust a Trailer: The promised fight between Ottway and the alpha wolf is never shown on screen. We get a brief shot after the credits of the aftermath, but it's too close up to really tell the outcome.
  • One Steve Limit: Both Ottway and Diaz are called John. They share a laugh after realizing this.
  • Peaceful in Death: Ottway does his best to make the first man's death this way — instead of telling him he's going to be fine, he says straight out, "You're going to die. That's what's happening." Then he encourages him to think about whom he loves, and let her take him.
  • Primal Fear: The entire film runs on this and never lets up.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: "Fuck faith! Earn it!"
  • Red Herring: The GPS tracking watch.
    • The sawed off tree the survivors find before reaching the cliff. If there was civilization anywhere close to that point, the survivors never find it.
  • The Reveal: What exactly Ottway meant when he said that his wife "left him."
  • Savage Wolves: The plot of the film. Highly aggressive and fiercely territorial, these wolves have never encountered humans before.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Inverted, perhaps even given a Russian Reversal. The shaggy wolves get the humans
  • Shout-Out: Talget's cap, a black cap with the yellow letters "WY" are the same colors of the Weyland-Yutani logo from Alien. Ridley Scott, director of Alien, produced this film.
  • Signature Roar: The alpha wolf's snarl/roar is instantly recognisable, and Ottway identifies it as a challenge.
  • The Stinger: Ottway and the alpha wolf lying in a heap after their fight, barely alive. Due to the closeness of the camera, you can only see the wolf's side breathing heavily, and the back of Ottway's head resting upon it. Whether or not either of the two will survive is up for debate, though think about the following two points:
    • The heavy breathing of the wolf is a deliberate callback to the beginning of the film, where a mortally wounded wolf is breathing similarly before Ottway ends its misery.
    • Ottway's head is ON TOP of the wolf, implying that Ottway collapsed after the wolf did, and may in fact only be resting, catching his breath after the (no doubt) demanding fight.
      • On the other hand, we don't see him move and it's rather more likely that he simply succumbed to his wounds after the wolf did and that the rest of the pack is waiting for him to bleed out.
      • In place of that, it's pointed out in the Fridge Briliance of the YMMV that he may have succumbed to hypothermia. A sympton of hypothermia is a false feeling of warmness, and Ottway removes his jacket, gloves, and hat after climbing out of a freezing river, implying this.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Or rather, predators, hunting in a pack. Justified by the fact that they are in the wolf pack's personal territory, and as such are being hunted because they're a threat rather than purely for food. Further justified by The Reveal that they've been heading straight towards the pack's den, making the aggressiveness very understandable.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The shot of Ottway creating the makeshift bottle knuckles and beginning to fight the Alpha doesn't come up until the very end.

Seth RogenJustForFun/Tropes Examined by the Myth BustersHeadhunters
Grave Encounters 2Films of the 2010sHalo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

alternative title(s): The Grey
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