The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, is such a travesty, I hardly know where to begin. This movie is so bad, it offends on so many levels, it’s so full of misinformation, I truly want my money back.
In one of the first scenes, Neeson kills a wolf. The camera goes in for a closeup. Blood from her head and mouth spreads over the snow. She does not move, but her belly continues to rise and fall. Is she still breathing, or is she carrying pups? Neeson goes to her, lays his hand on her belly, and the movement stops. The camera cuts to a closeup of Neeson’s face; he’s old and he’s tired. He’s killed a wolf. If there’s meaning to this senseless act, we’ll have to wait to discover it.
Death is everywhere in this movie. The men who survive the plane crash make foolish decisions, and they die. Why leave the shelter of their downed plane to head into a woods where there is no shelter? Ah, because Neeson’s character thinks their plane has crashed into a wolf den. Wolf den? Out in the middle of a snowy nowhere? No rocks, no trees, no place to den? The movie is based on such falsehood, such non-understanding of wolves, it’s hard to sit through.
Wolves do not attack humans. The few accounts of such “attacks” are either suspect or figments of someone’s overactive imagination. The men in this movie evidently never got over their fear of the big, bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. These supposedly grown-up, weather-hardened, hard-drinking men persist in believing these myths about wolves, despite studies that absolutely, irrevocably disprove these selfsame myths.
Throughout the centuries, wolves have been labeled as minions of Satan, indiscriminate killers, fearsome animals that must be hunted down and killed. We set snares for them. We trapped them. We set them on fire. We injected them with contagious strains of mange. We laced meat with strychnine. We gassed their dens. We set a bounty on wolf hides. We did all that to them, and more. By 1970, wolves were nearly extinct.
The cry of a wolf is a spine-tingling thing. You can hear the loneliness, the anguish, the grief in it. And when a single wolf is joined by members of his pack or by other wolves, outliers or juveniles, it can be a chilling thing. Yet wolves are intelligent, curious, beautiful animals. Around humans they’re often shy, submissive, as if they realize man can be a fearsome predator, yet they’re drawn to him in much the same way dogs are drawn to humans.
Wolves form family units, they mate for life, and they grieve when their families are broken up. Their diet consists mostly of mice, birds, and carrion. Wolf packs cooperate to bring down larger prey: deer, moose, or elk. Yet it is the old, the sick, and the weak they attack, leaving the fittest to survive and to reproduce.
This movie does more to degrade science, to obscure the truths that have only within the last fifty years begun to seep into our collective consciousness: that in nature there is predator and prey, that the natural world is a violent place, that predation is necessary in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem, that the wolf has a role in preserving the delicate balance nature tries to achieve, despite the best efforts of mankind to disrupt that balance. All these things are cast overboard in this movie.
This portrayal of wolves does nothing to advance our understanding of nature. Nor does it speak well of those who claim dominion over them.