Sunday, February 26, 2012

Into The Grey

Note: In an effort to talk about something different for once, I present my attempt at another movie review. Of course this doesn't actually mean I review it.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a large percentage of people who don't watch movies properly. Or maybe I should say ... are incapable of watching movies that are otherwise different from your standard Hollywood film but for whatever reason decided they would watch it. Now I know, movies are as subjective as other types of media. What one person likes is no guarantee that another person will like the same thing. I am not a fan of Scott Pilgrim VS The World, for example, but mainly because I believe it to be a stupid movie that is overrated. This opinion was brought on by the hordes of people saying it is the greatest film of 'our' culture and a film I would therefore thoroughly enjoy. This process, in my mind, created a space for a film of deep meaning, emotional story telling and with excellent cinematography. Scott Pilgrim did not deliver this.

This can be attributed to the fact that it was not anything like what I regard to be a brilliant movie, essentially what it was talked up to be. It is usually a strong combination of the three previously mentioned factors that result in a film I regard as worthwhile. These are the factors I look for in films which is where said subjectivity arises. I can understand if they are not the same factors other people look for in films ... but I do need to ask myself why.

What is it that people look for in the movies they watch, and why do people often have such vast differences in opinion regarding particular films? I feel there is a large audience out there that have become accustomed to the typical spoonfed style of Hollywood movies and therefore regard anything that slips off the boat as "boring", "weird" and "confusing". They are there for the laughs, the explosions, the same ridiculous romantic stories between impossible characters in unreal situations. If a movie lacks any of these tried and true attributes it is therefore somehow lacking in substance and not worthy of viewing.

So I finally come to 'The Grey', a movie I thought I knew what it would be like and what it was going to be about and, generally speaking, I was mostly correct. It was a film very much in the vein of something like The Thin Red Line, except to do with survival instead of war. It has an interesting way of delivering the story, a story that I will attempt not to spoil much of here. From forum posts, reviewer comments and even people I have met, opinions of this movie were very mixed but generally in the negative. "Boring", "weird" and "confusing" were terms being thrown around by many, while others complained about the foul language (?) and apparently dodgy ending.

For some, such negative peer remarks would dissuade one from seeing the film, but for me it only increased my interest. After all, this was a film I thought I knew what it would be like, and for it to be as bad as I thought it would be good ... well, I just had to see it then. If only for clarification and understanding.

So I saw it. As I thought, it was a movie that had elements of story telling similar to that of The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life and even 127 Hours. I do not mind this type of story telling at all. It can be quite effective in its abstractness, if that was the intended style of the movie's narrative. However, I came out of the movie at a complete loss as to what other people were complaining about it for. The questions and arguments they had against the film were not even remotely complaints for me ... and it bugs me. It bugs me because some of the arguments are so completely invalid, naught and unwarranted that I wonder if I actually saw the same movie as these people. Perhaps it is best described if I detail these arguments in a question and (my) response format, so you can understand my meaning:

1. Why did they move away from the plane crash?

My reply:
They had just crash landed on an ice plain in the middle of nowhere with rapidly dwindling food supplies. There are also freezing winds and sub-zero temperatures and they have barely any shelter. Also there are wolves attacking them and they believe they are on the wolves hunting grounds. Kind of hard to have missed that point...

2. Why was there over-dramatic, irrelevant and boring bits of self-reflection and happenings from the past?

My reply:
A lot of movies do this. Some don't even attempt to tie them in with the story at all (which is alright). A character looks at a photo and some random clip of them from their childhood is shown for a few seconds, seemingly unconnected. Or is it? I don't know what the term is, but I am going to call it impressionistic, non-chronological story development. Neeson's character allows for several moments of this style to be presented, all tying in some way to the movie. A poem by his father, a sentence from his wife, recollecting a prior event, experiencing a somewhat similar symbolic situation etc. Somehow they will have an impact on the development of the story. If you cannot see this, understand how it works or appreciate it as a method of exposition ... than you really shouldn't be watching this kind of movie at all. The message has failed upon you. Or rather, you it.

3. The ending sucked. What happened?

My reply:
Really? The ending seemed rather conclusive to me. He ended up in a situation he could not possibly survive and instead of throwing in the towel (like he was doing at the start of the movie), he chose to make a personal stand. Everything about the story, especially the impressionistic, non-chronological scenes, were leading up to this point. A final outcome against insurmountable odds, one in which you will most likely die. It was about accepting fate and the purgatory of life but still resisting it even if it is futile. Did he regain his faith? Did he kill a wolf? Did he even live? Good questions. Do you need to know the answers to them? In my opinion, the ending of the movie is far stronger with these questions left unanswered.

There is a higher meaning to films like The Grey than your standard Hollywood flick. Those who came expecting a movie where Neeson mindlessly punched wolves in the face were bound to be dissapointed. Those who came expecting a clear and happy ending were left a similar result. Not everything in life ends well, and this is a film that exposes that. Depressing? Maybe. I would prefer to call it honest.

The Grey is therefore not for everyone. Do I recommend it? That depends. I personally think it is a decent movie, one with deep meaning, emotional story telling and with excellent cinematography. However, that is what I personally look for in a movie and if your taste differs in any way, then no, I cannot recommend it to you. If, however, you can watch something a tiny bit different from what you expect and appreciate the light amounts of impressionistic, non-chronological story development it uses, than sure, you may get an interesting watch out of it.

However, it is the type of movie I would watch by yourself. There are some movies that are simply ruined by the presence of more impatient/talkative fellows and this is definitely one of them.

Also he does kill the Alpha wolf. Patience is a virtue.

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