If you haven't seen it yet, all you need to know about the movie The Grey is that 59-year-old Liam Neeson fights off gray wolves with broken airline liquor bottles taped to his hands. But the screenplay, written by director Joe Carnahan and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers (who also wrote the book from which the movie is based), is much deeper than that. And that's where the SPOILERS begin!
Jeffers' book is titled "Ghost Walker" which all but proves my theory -- my theory that this film doesn't take place in the Alaskan wilderness, there is no plane crash, the wolves are a "test" of his faith, and Liam Neeson is already dead.
My theory is that The Grey is purgatory.
The movie starts with John Ottway (Liam Nesson) contemplating suicide, a choice he consciously decides against -- or so we think. As the movie progresses there are three or four distinct times he could have actually died, leaving this world and entering a realm of purgatory where his faith is tested before moving on to the afterlife.
Throughout the film we also get glimpses inside Ottway's memories, including the repetitive vision of his wife lying next to him in bed, reminding him to "not be afraid" (we later learn that this is actually a hospital bed -- but can't tell which of them is sick). And we get a flashback to his job as a gray wolf assassin, protecting his fellow oil-riggers from attacks. It's a job he despises.
Jumping ahead, post-brutally-realistic plane crash, Ottway eases a victim's death by informing him to just relax, "it'll slide over you, it'll feel nice and warm." Strangely descriptive for any living soul to know without experiencing for themselves. His fellow survivors are equally curious.
Later that night the first group of gray wolves attack their "camp." Coincidentally, these are the exact predators that Ottway has become an expert on through his experiences and research for his job. The wolves continue to attack an unrealistic number of times as the days go on (something animal-rights activists are howling over), killing the survivors off one-by-one. Now it could just be that this is a Hollywood action film, but I would like to give it more credit than that. Maybe this is our first hint that these animals aren't real, the entire experience in fact is part of Ottway's "test."
And then there's Ottway's father's poem -- revealed during a deep conversation of faith, religion, and the after-life amongst the survivors:
Once more into the fray.I fully expected it to end with "... the grey." And when it didn't, the red flag was raised. So what is "The Grey" then? It can't just be a reference to Ottway's grey beard, can it? And grey wolves are actually "gray" wolves -- with an "A" not a "E". Which got me thinking...
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live and die on this day.
Live and die on this day.
Grey is the color between white and black, between life and death, between heaven and hell. The Grey is purgatory.