The Grey is at its core a horror film. The movie tells the story of a band of plane crash survivors in Alaska trying to fend off a pack of wolves. It deals with this in a horror movie setting, where each camera framing makes us wonder if a wolf is going to jump out of the background or not.
By using this medium, director Joe Carnahan gives us some pretty cool stuff. One thing that stuck with me is when they are surrounded by the wolves at night and can’t see them, but when the wolves howl they do see their breath rise up. There’s lots of little details like that which show how well-crafted this movie is.
However, I’m not claiming that The Grey is strictly a horror film either. There are many moments where it rises above the constraints of that genre. At certain moments it becomes an excellent survivalist film, echoing back to movies like Deliverance. At these moments Carnahan does a great job of putting us in the shoes of the characters. A great example of this is the scene where Talget is climbing a rope from the cliff to the treeline. It felt very immersive.
You can also sense that the people behind this movie were going for something deeper than a straight up survival movie. And even though they fail at this at points they manage to succeed more often than not. Liam Neeson is a great center for the film, but the other characters manage to avoid just being red shirts and have some humanity in them as well. This is a very strong film which works on both the cerebral level and on the level of “whoa, that’s cool.”