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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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Louis of France: At his coronation as king of France, Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice. 
<p>He was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though not without challenge. They had 11 children. </p><p>Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta ini Egypt but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years. </p><p>He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. His regulations for royal officials became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the use of written records in court. </p><p>Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV’s sentence against Emperor Frederick II. </p><p>Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis (October 4), caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace. </p><p>Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion. </p><p>Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.</p> American Catholic Blog God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty. <br />–St. John of the Cross

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