When I say this movie is good, what I mean is it's a movie that will pull your heart out and stomp on it and leave you with deep and dark and mindblowing thoughts, if you let it. I see complaints of it online that talk about the "unrealistic portrayal" of the wolves and the situation, but what these people were expecting is Liam Neeson punching some wolves in the face. They wanted an action movie. And while the movie sure is full of action, that's not what it's about. Not at all. It's a philosophical art film that touches on so many symbols and allegories that you pretty much have to watch it twice to catch everything.
The main character, Ottway, is an oil rig worker who kills wolves that threaten the workers. On their way home to Anchorage, the plane crashes and he is left with six other men, to try and escape the Alaskan wilderness. A pack of wolves who hunt in the area turn their attention on the group, who go through some pretty insane obstacles to survive the cold, the wolves, the cliffs, the lack of food, and each other's tempers. They talk about family and share stories. Ottway tells the men of a poem his dad wrote long ago and he recites it at several integral points during the film.
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 poem gains meaning as the movie draws to a close, and the ending itself had me bawling, squealing like a baby for at least an hour afterward. When Derik watched the movie it affected him the same way (though he was a little more composed about it) but it seems like other people, the people who GOT the point of the movie and its ending, agreed with our sentiments: perfect and heartbreaking and wonderful and powerful all at the same time.
I'll try to analyze some of the philosophical elements of the film without giving away spoilers, but if you're one of those people who must know NOTHING about a movie before seeing it, go get it. It's on Netflix and Redbox. You have no excuse. Just remember--despite the misleading trailer and the sound of the movie description, this isn't a cut-and-dry survival action movie. It's much deeper.
Atheism: Atheism is a very subtle but important (to me) plot point in the movie. Some of the survivors are religious. Some aren't. The movie has been accused of being pro-atheism, and if that was the intent, I applaud it. Whether it was or not I took it that way, as I'm sure pro-religion people could take the movie as a symbol of God's presence. For me, though, the moment that stayed with me was when Ottway leaned against a rock and shouted up, “Do something. Do something. You phony, prick, fraudulent motherfucker! Do Something! Come on. Prove it! Fuck faith, earn it! Show me something real. I need it now—not later—now! Show me and I’ll believe in you until I die! I swear. I’m calling on you. I’m calling on you!" I think anyone in such a dire situation would beg in that way. He stares up at the trees and everything is quiet. After calming down, a sort of disappointed look comes over his face and he states the impressive, " … Fuck it. I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself."
Man vs Self: Every supporting character in this movie represents an allegorical "stereotype" of male in modern society. There's the family man, the gentle giant, the rebel and the 'smart' guy. The main character is of course a conglomerate of these, having been them all at one time, so the supporting characters can be seen as a symbolic extension of his personality. In other words, the movie explores the facets of man's ego when he is left alone with himself. Some of these are heartbreaking. We usually don't ever get the unlucky chance to be in that situation and see what would happen, but the movie is an accurate portrayal.
The Harsh Truth. The antagonists in the movie are obviously the wolves, but one of the men has a real mean streak and penchant for saying unpopular things. Among his lines are "This is Fuck City, Population 5 and dwindling," and "I got a book. It's called "We're all fucked". It's a bestseller." He has altercations throughout the movie with different guys, and he does some pretty rotten things, but the thing about Diaz is, he's always honest. Everything he says about their situation, though it's hopeless, is accurate. He doesn't like Ottway's leadership and argues any chance he can get about the direction they're going. Diaz in other words is that little nagging voice of doubt in everyone's head. The sad part about it is that he IS so honest, whether he means to be or not. Once you watch the movie a second time you realize that every single thing he says has merit, even if you just want to yell at him to shut up.
His most moving line was, "That's exactly why. What I got waiting for me back there? I'm gonna sit on a drill all day. Get drunk all night. That's my life. Turn around and look at that. I feel like that's all for me. How do I beat that. When will it ever be better? I can't explain it."
Alpha. There's no hiding the fact that Ottway and the Alpha male of the wolf pack mirror each other throughout the film. During the movie, Ottway leads his men just as the Alpha leads his pack. They both subdue the would-be rebels, and they are both cunning in ways. They have several "looks" at each other as the movie progresses, and neither attacks the other. Just as you can see in other literature--a good and recent example is Harry Potter-- "neither can live while the other survives." This is a biological truth we see around us in nature and a sad fact of life. There can't be two such strong insurmountable mountains of power in the same territory. It's unbalanced. It's cruel that they have to fight, but it's not a weak fight or an unmatched one. Before their actual confrontation, the Alpha very slowly approaches while Ottway prepares himself. The wolf could have leapt, he could have called the pack to help him, but he didn't. Instead, he called the pack away and allowed the man to get ready for an honorable fight.
There's more I could say, but instead I am going to go watch the new episode of Parks and Recreation, and then watch the ending to The Grey again. It's really a life-changing movie. And perfect for winter, so go see it. Also how is Liam Neeson hot at like 60-something? Mmfff.