Film Studies: This Week at the Movies

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In FocusThe Grey

Is there a God, and if so, why does he let terrible things happen in the world? It’s an age-old question that’s debated deliberately and pointlessly in the new thriller The Grey in which Liam Neeson literally punches a wolf in the face.

But, to be fair, the wolf totally had it coming.

In The Grey, late-blooming action star/meme Liam Neeson matures from mercilessly attacking the throats of dastardly henchmen to selectively punching wolves and leading a group of plane crash survivors through the rugged and unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. But, the film isn’t the high-octane, man-vs.-nature thriller you’d expect it to be. Sure, the narrative is strung along with the nagging subplot of a pack of hungry and oddly intelligent (like Jurassic Park velociraptor-caliber smart) wolves stalking the characters, but the film struggles to be much more meaningful by littering the dialogue with pointless and trite existential conversations about the existence of God and stuff.

Liam Neeson plays John Ottway, a professional wolf-sniper (yes, that’s his actual job title) at a remote oil rig deep in the Alaskan tundra. On his last night on the job, he contemplates suicide, but abandons the idea altogether for reasons that are never fully explained in the film. Instead, he boards a plane the next day that shuttles workers at the end of their extended shifts back to civilization. Inevitably, the plane crashes and leaves him wishing he’d just pulled that trigger and ended it all swiftly, rather than spend the next two hours reciting shitty dialogue and fighting off unnaturally vengeful wolves.

After the crash, Neeson leads a ragtag bunch of scraggly bearded survivors through the barren tundra in hopes of finding some sort of rescue. But, much to their (and certainly our) dismay, the plane just so happened to land smack dab in the middle of the feeding grounds of an angry pack of CGI wolves.

And so, as the band of survivors struggle to pull resources together to survive the frigid environment, they’re forced to fight off the blood-thirsty, hyper-intelligent wolves as they meticulously pick off the survivors, one by one.

While the film isn’t completely terrible, it falters heavily in its vain attempts to be a thoughtful, philosophical quandary of the existence of God and a Darwinian exploration of man vs nature. Leeson, who’s become something of an action star icon so late in his career, mostly saves the film from being a complete blunder with his hopelessly devoted performance, but ultimately neither his ambiguous Irish accent, nor his wolf-punching skills (which is actually pretty under-utilized) can save this film from its ridiculous script that sounds like it was written as a final paper in a Philosophy 101 class.

A true exercise in rugged masculinity and primal testosterone, The Grey is the thinly veiled dumb kind of movie that’s destined to be a classic among frat brothers.


Also OpeningMan on a Ledge

Sam Worthington is… a man… on a ledge. Why is he on this ledge? Why did he pick that particular ledge to stand on? Will he ever leave the ledge? Hopefully this movie will answer some of these burning questions.

Recommended for: Men on ledges, obviously. Except that they’d have to leave the ledge to see the movie, so then they wouldn’t be men on ledges anymore? Fine, men, who at one point or another, were on a ledge.


One for the Money
Katherine Heigl and some dude doing a pretty impressive Gerard Butler impression star in this romantic action/comedy about something or another. Why? Because it’s not officially January without at least one crappy Katharine Heigl romantic comedy.

Recommended for: Katharine Heigl’s devoted fans, girlfriends dragging their boyfriends out for date night, and people who can’t wait a few months to see it on their next flight.


Albert Nobbs
Glenn Close and Janet McTeer were both nominated for Academy Awards for this highly buzzed drama about a woman passing as a man in early 20th century Ireland in order to work and survive on her own. Close has supposedly been pursuing this movie since the early ’80s, so it’s sure to be one of the more talked-about performances of the year.

Recommended for: Crossdressers, cinephiles, and fans of period pieces.


Local Pick of the Week: The ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

The Disabilities Film Festival rolls into town this week, with nine different films that raise awareness of the inspiring and extraordinary accomplishments that people with disabilities can achieve. Spread out over the next week at various venues throughout the greater DC area, the Disabilities Film Festival is quickly becoming one of the more prominent area festivals around the East Coast.

Click here for screening dates, locations, and for more information about the festival