Movie Roundup 2012: January Part Two (The Grey and Underworld: Awakening)

2012 has been a great year for movies. With a superb array of films coming from almost every genre we at Sound And Motion wanted to celebrate this fact, and bring you our lowdown on what we think have been the key pictures this year, from January to December.

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THE GREY

Released: January 27th.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, James Badge Dale, Nonso Anozie.

Directed by: Joe Carnahan.

the grey

A film that sees him play a more damaged, broken version of a character he’s been plenty of times before, Liam Neeson stars in The Grey, the story of a group of oil workers and their desperate, enduring journey through the wilderness to hope and civilisation, with hungry, merciless wolves snapping at their heels and biting at their necks the whole way there.

Based on Ian MacKenzie’s short story, Ghost Walker, The Grey opens to John Ralph Ottway’s (Liam Neeson) mournful words- “A job at the end of the world. A salaried killer for a big petroleum company. I don’t know why I did half the things I’ve done, but I know this is where I belong, surrounded by my own- ex-cons, fugitives, drifters, assholes. Men unfit for mankind”. As he prepares to end his life Ottway glimpses a wolf nearby, and chooses to remove the rifle barrel from his own mouth in favour of shooting dead a defenceless animal, something that serves to dampen audience opinion of him for the rest of the film.

John, along with a group of rowdy and argumentative oil workers, boards a plane home which soon crashes in a blizzard, leaving them stranded in an icy wilderness. While out cold he sees a vision of his wife (Anne Openshaw) urging him to not be afraid, something that recurs often throughout the film and makes more sense towards the end.

As the survivors recuperate around the crash site one of them, Hernandez (Ben Bray), is killed by two wolves, alerting Ottway and the workers to the real danger they are in.

Led by John, the survivors set out through the wilderness in search of help, but their hopes are continually dashed by the hungry jaws of a pack of territorial wolves, led by a single, black alpha. As they continue on and lose more and more of their party, their chances of survival seem ever slimmer, and their weak bonds prove useless against the icy determination of inevitability.

An actor terribly type-cast of late, Liam Neeson’s role as John Ralph Ottway is nothing audiences won’t have seen before. He’s a strong, determined individual born to lead, and he does his best to keep his companions alive at all times, but we see very little of his true nature.

the grey

A common theme throughout the movie is the comparison of the events taking place to a poem that used to hang on the desk of Ottway’s father, one he often recites- “Once more into the fray, into the last good fight, live and die this day, live and die this day.” This poem, along with the repeated visions of the wife, echo the torment that fills Ottway’s soul, and makes his determination to survive all the more surprising.

Are these themes necessary? We aren’t sure. Really, The Grey just seems to play out as a typical animal attack movie, with people dropping like flies and a sporadic amount of action throughout. It tries to be a movie with real depth and believable emotion, but it only manages that task to a small extent.

The Grey is a movie that matches the colour it shares its name with. One that vilifies wolves, and wastes Liam Neeson’s talents. It’s watchable, and it’s better than others like it, but it’s one that’ll surely be forgotten soon enough.

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UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

Released: January 20th.

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rae, Michael Rae, Theo James, Kris Holden-Reid, Charles Dance.

Directed by: Mans Marlind.

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Another Underworld film with just as many black outfits, black environments and, well, black everything, as the previous four, Underworld: Awakening sees Kate Beckinsale reprise her role as deathdealer Selene, a former member of the vampire fighting elite that betrayed her kin by falling in love with a werewolf.

On discovering the existence of vampires and their mortal enemies, the Lycans, or werewolves if you prefer, mankind begins a regime of merciless eradication, with the sole aim of purging the inhuman plague from existence. After she and her Lycan lover Michael (Scott Speedman) are attacked by humans in the harbour, Selena is thrown into a cryogenic sleep by a grenade that sees her come-to years later in the Antigen laboratory.

Finding herself in a dangerous world where the hunter has become the hinted, Selena discovers she and Michael are still connected through a powerful daughter called Eve (India Eisley) that she and David (Theo James), another vampire, must protect from werewolf and human alike.

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As mentioned in the introduction of this review, Underwold: Awakening is, at least in colour terms, a very black movie. Though suiting its tone this is one of the first things that really lets the film down as, at times, things can be a little difficult to keep track of in fast-paced action scenes.

Of course action is what people watch the Underworld films for, that and Kate Beckinsale in Leather, and action if something that’s here in abundance. With fight scenes straight out of the Matrix and Equilibrium, the movie is packed with death defying stunts, heart stopping fire-fights and big bad monsters, all tied up with a decent plot and some very sexy actors.

Underworld: Awakening is the fourth film in the vampire sage to be released thus far and, though the whole thing might seem a bit tired to some, proof that the undead, werewolves and guns are always a great combination. Provided Stephanie Meyer isn’t involved.

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