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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Grey

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Liam Neeson stars in a scene from the movie "The Grey."
"The Grey" (Open Road) respectfully obeys the immutable law of all story lines in which an aircraft crashes in the Arctic: Some folks are bound to get eaten.

This film, however, with its slight spiritual bent, ducks the cannibalism cliche and makes wolves the hungry ones. The animals are doing what they're supposed to do by nature, stalking the survivors to thin out the human herd—the better, in the end, to kill them all.

Liam Neeson plays oil-rig worker John Ottway. He leads an ever-dwindling handful of men—Hendrick, Diaz, Talget, Burke and Flannery (Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Nonso Anozie and Joe Anderson, respectively)—through howling winds, deep snow, fatigue and their own anxieties after their plane crashes while en route to Anchorage, Alaska.

That misfortune is significantly compounded by the fact that they've come down too close to the wolves' den, leaving them targeted as invaders.

As directed by Joe Carnahan—who co-scripted with Ian Mackenzie Jeffers from Jeffers' short story "Ghost Walker"—the chases, killings and feats of courage are brisk but routine. The script's attempts at profundity and spiritual reflection, moreover, are wildly uneven.

These oil-rig workers don't just swear constantly and fight among themselves as they dodge their predators. Each evening around the fire, they also debate the meaning of this life and the prospects for life after death. Additionally, they demonstrate a great deal of respect for those who perished in the crash.

As the film opens, Ottway is shown to be so lonely and depressed over missing his (unnamed) wife—Anne Openshaw, seen in flashbacks—that he attempts suicide. The crash thrusts him instantly into a strong leadership role. But he eventually proves to be a fatalist, inspired by a Kiplingesque poem his father wrote that ends, "Live and die on this day."

Toward the end, Ottway gazes into the slate-colored sky and—as though following the advice of Job's friends—curses God. He does so, moreover, with a vocabulary very far from scriptural.

His vulgarly phrased sentiments register as more macho defiance than genuine blasphemy. And the extremity of his circumstances mitigates both his blameworthiness and the potential real-life impact of his example.

But this climactic moment is the strongest element among several that, taken together, make this survival story as much a morally inhospitable wilderness as its setting is a natural one. Given the meager rewards of trekking through it, even most adults would be well advised to decline the journey altogether.

The film contains troubling themes—including suicide and one character's blasphemous expression of despair—frequent gory animal attacks, at least one use of profanity and pervasive rough, crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

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