The Grey Allegory

i went to see “the grey” over the weekend at my favorite metroplex theater. i didn’t really know what to expect, and i was a little skeptical about the trapped survivor story and the possibility of cannibalism. i must say that even with these unwarranted prejudices, the film hooked me quickly and kept me engaged throughout.

“Northernmost Alaska. Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a for-hire security hunter/marksman under the employ of an Alaskan drilling operation. His job is to protect the “ex-cons, fugitives and assholes” from the area’s indigenous carnivores: bears & wolves. In one instance Ottway spots a grey blur on the horizon. He draws the rifle from his shoulder bag, follows the blur as it nears a trio of workers working on a pipe, and fires. The wolf slumps on the ground and Ottway puts his hands on it’s still breathing chest. He feels it’s life slip away. Ottway daydreams of his wife (Anne Openshaw); they both lay on a bed with white sheets facing each other, smiling. He writes a letter to his estranged wife, summing up his depression. One night after his shift, in the drilling operation’s tavern, Ottway grows sick of the rowdy patrons. He walks outside, pulls out his rifle and sticks the barrel in his mouth. As he is about to pull the trigger, numerous wolf calls echo in the distance. He takes the barrel out of his mouth.


Ottway and many other crewman from the drilling operation board a commuter jet bound for Anchorage, being de-iced on a runway. Ottway stores his rifle in the overhead bin, takes his seat, and closes his eyes. Another grunt, named Flannery (Joe Anderson), wakens Ottway and annoys him with questions about his sex-life. Ottway tells Flannery to either shut up or move. Flannery exits the row and finds a seat elsewhere. As Ottway sleeps the other travelers are disturbed by the turbulent flight. Flannery annoys the others by telling horror stories about airplane crash victims. The plane is rocked by massive turbulence. Ottway awakens; he sees sparks erupting from the cockpit and watches the ground grow larger in his window. He lays himself flat across his row and buckles himself in. He watches the hull tear away.

Ottway lays on the same white bed as before, and stares at his wife. They’re covered by a billowy sheet. Ottway awakens in a desolate, snow-covered field, alone. He gets to his feet, surveys his surroundings, and runs in the direction of smoke. Beyond a bluff lies the wreckage of the plane. He scrambles down to the crash-site and happens upon Flannery, injured and pinned under his seat. Ottway helps him up, doing his best to distract him from his bisected seat-mate. Ottway makes his way inside the fuselage where he finds a half dozen survivors. One of them, Lewenden (James Badge Dale) is spurting blood from his abdomen. Hendrick (Dallas Roberts) comforts Lewenden, telling him that he’ll pull through. Ottway takes one look at Lewenden and tells him as tactfully as he can that he will succumb to his wounds; that death will feel like a warm blanket that slowly overtakes him, and to accept it while thinking about his daughter. Lewenden slowly passes, to the shock of the survivors around him.” reposted from moviespoilers.com

it occurred to me that this modern fable could easily translate into an allegory for addiction. a few hardcore users find themselves in a s place where they have to fight to survive. as they see their companions fade to gray, first in a group, then individually, there is an obvious struggle to remain human while simultaneously developing the skills necessary to survive. being chased by wolves and lacking food and rest adds to the terror in a concrete way. one by one the hardcore team is picked off by the pack of beasts who are cunning, baffling, and powerful.

it is definitely not an uplifting tale. it is dark, suspenseful, and gory. this reflected image of a mad struggle to survive settled over me like a fog and still lingers. there are so many travelers among us who are trapped in their own hell. they continue to scramble to find safety, with death happening around them without notice.  this has been very much like my experience with life. simply staying alive can sometimes become a royal gorge and i have found that only a spiritual connection can transform the drudgery with purpose. this is my truth. life was a ride, but somehow the adventure changed and became grey. and the wolves that were my constant consumption became fierce, colorless, and cold.

the film is harsh. its cold and it’s frank. i was hooked from almost the start. i liked seeing it on the big megaplex screen, too. the scenery was a character and added so much. i sit close and move my head from side to side. wide screen should be wide screen- gray or not.

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