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Film / The Grey

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"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."

The Grey is a survival Thriller film starring Liam Neeson and directed by Joe Carnahan. 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 from an aggressively territorial pack of wolves.

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.
  • Arc Words: "Live and die on this day..."; "Don't be afraid."
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The film's trailers give the impression that the writers don't understand real wolves, which are known to be skittish around fire and humans, whether or not they've encountered them before. It's handled more realistically 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.
    • Alpha and Beta Wolves is in full effect, with Ottway describing complex hierarchies within the pack extending to even Gamma wolves. The theory of "alpha" and "beta" wolves is long since discredited, as wolf packs in the wild are family units typically consisting of a breeding pair (the "alpha") and their offspring, not unrelated adult wolves vying for dominance (wolves in captivity have been observed behaving like this, which lead to the 1947 paper "Expressions Studies on Wolves" by animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel based on wolves in the Basel Zoo in Switzerland, the source of these misconceptions).
    • Ottway takes an unintentional bath in freezing water, but when he emerges and wanders through the icy wasteland still wet, he doesn't seem to be feeling any effects of hypothermia.
  • Big Bad: The Alpha leader of the wolf. The one with the black fur.
  • 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.
  • Brutal Honesty: Ottway's shtick, but he really outdid himself when he used it as a way of comforting a dying person.
    Ottway: You gonna die. That's what's happening.
  • Canis Major: The Alpha is huge, black, and has an impressive, mane-like ruff around his neck.
  • Cessation of Existence: What Diaz, an atheist, believes happens when you die. Ottway somewhat agrees with this view but admits that he wants to believe otherwise.
  • 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.
  • Chromosome Casting: The flight attendant is the only female character with spoken lines and existing outside sparse flashbacks or visions. She's there for a single scene.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: The wolves' eyes are seen glowing from the darkness surrounding the human group.
  • Dead All Along: Ottway's wife is revealed to have been dead for years.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Diaz cuts off the head of the wolf they killed and cooked and brandishes it in defiance of the wolf pack that surround them.
  • 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: The film ends with the lone survivor Ottway preparing to face almost impossible odds by taking on the alpha wolf in hand-to-hand combat. Even if he wins, he will most likely be grievously injured and miles away from civilization. At least he has made peace with his situation and is prepared to go "once more into the fray".
  • Dramatic Irony: In the very end, Ottway discovers they were getting deeper and deeper into the wolves' territory all the time, right to the point of reaching the den in the final scene.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ottway contemplates this in the opening scene.
  • Dwindling Party: The survivors die off one by one due to the wolves or other aspects of the Alaskan environment.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Not as much subverted as kicked right in the balls. First thing Ottway does after regaining conscious is searching for a wool cap and then - a jacket. Later, everyone is wearing few layers of clothes and improvised additional covers and still visibly trembles from cold. Not to mention characters dying out of exposure.
  • Fight to Survive: Trying to get out alive after crashing in the Arctic, while being stalked by wolves.
  • Final Boy: Ottway is clearly our main character and is the last survivor alive if he's not the Sole Survivor.
  • 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. Although, 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: The wolves' eyes reflect the firelight, making them glow in the dark.
  • 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.
  • Heaven Above: Liam Neeson's character yells into the sky to ask God for help. With no sign of response, Neeson's characters curses under his breath and goes into the final fray with the wolves alone.
  • 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.
  • Improvised Weapon: Early in the film, the others fend a wolf off Ottway with various detritus from the crash. Strangely, no one brings these makeshift clubs with them despite knowing that they're being hunted by wolves. Later, Ottway fashions bang sticks using a stick, some tape, and a single shotgun shell. Finally, Ottway uses a few empty bottles of airline-sized liquor taped between his fingers as a knuckleduster.
  • Irony: Ottway nearly commits suicide on the night before he takes charge in a life-or-death struggle.
  • Jerkass: Diaz is an obnoxious and pugnacious troublemaker before he realizes the error of his ways.
  • Jump Scare: A couple, mostly involving — you guessed it — the wolves.
  • Last-Name Basis: Up until the tearful goodbye with Diaz, where it turns into First-Name Basis.
  • Last Stand: A motif of the film. Ottway's grandfather's poem is about going "once more into the fray." In the end, Ottway prepares to make a final stand against the alpha wolf.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: In the final scene, Ottway is surrounded by the wolves, but the alpha wolf calls the pack off and non-verbally challenges him to one-on-one combat. The alpha wolf even lets him finish making a shrine to his fallen companions and prepare his weapons before they fight.
  • The Medic: Henrick, who is the one treating all injuries with actual medical knowledge.
  • 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."
  • No Escape but Down: The remaining survivors get themselves cornered on a top of a steep cliff, with choice of either being eaten or jumping on nearest tree over a ravine and tying an improvised rope for the rest.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The wolves may be extremely dangerous, but they’re not acting out malice. Rather, they’re aggressively defending their territory against the men, whom they perceive as encroaching upon their land. The film’s finale actually shows that the men were gradually moving closer to the wolves’ den, explaining why they were behaving so aggressively.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: While we do have plenty of scenes with the wolves onscreen, there are other times where we only hear them.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: 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.
  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: When Henrick's leg get jammed, both he and Ottway try to pull it out, instead of pushing on the other side of the log and then just standing above water surface. For their credit, they were both acting on pure reflexes and Ottway had no clue what is going on.
  • One-Steve Limit: Both Ottway and Diaz are called John. They share a laugh after realizing this.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: After spending the film being hunted by wolves Ottway realizes in horror that he's traveled right into their den. The entire time he had been moving towards danger rather than away from it.
  • 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.
  • Plummet Perspective: The guy hanging from the rope loses his glasses when looking down into the abyss.
  • 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.
  • 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 recognizable, 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.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The wolves pursue the survivors for days and attack aggressively even though the survivors put up a fight. Ottway hypothesizes that they're near the pack's den. In the end, he discovers that they've only been getting closer to the den for the whole film, explaining why the wolves are increasingly aggressive.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Hernandez as the first victim of the wolves stands out as this, as he knew aggressive wolves were in the area and it's dark, but despite being on watch while everyone is asleep still decides to walk far away from the fire just to pee as opposed to two feet away, and this gets him viciously mauled to death.
  • 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.
  • Worthy Opponent: Well, about as much as a wolf might regard a human anyway. The pack's Alpha stops them from tearing Ottway to pieces in lieu of going mano-a-lupo with him.