22 March, 2013

Liam Neeson: Wolf Puncher is an excellent film

Before I get back to my usual ridiculous self, I'd like to be dreary for a moment here and talk about The Grey.

As you will recall, The Grey is the movie where we were all led to believe that Liam Neeson gets in a donnybrook with wolves and, while it is that, it's also an incredible film that is about much more than the trailer advertises. As it turns out, it's a harrowing, horrific tale about the pain of living and the meaninglessness of our our existence. Also, yes, there is some wolf-based terror somewhere in the middle there.

What's more is that if I made movies, The Grey is the kind of movie I'd like to make.

Despite my love of slick, big films (my movie collection is mostly science fiction, war, and samurai movies of all types), I do love naturalism (Now, I don't say "realism," that's a whole other bag of marbles). There's something about filming a movie in a down to earth fashion that appeals directly to my artistic sensibilities. I remember Jay from Red Letter Media said that about a movie that he enjoyed and I know exactly what he meant.

That particular feeling is rare. It's also very specific. As great as Pulp Fiction might be or Inception or Kung Fu Hustle, I don't know, When Harry Met Sally, they aren't the kinds of movies I would have liked to have made. They certainly aren't movies I could have made. I think we can all agree on that.

The following are movies I would have liked to have made:
La Haine.
Battle of Algiers.

I can't say that The Grey is as good as any of these films, but it strikes a lot of chords that are just very particular to my taste. Therese films have the look of somebody just picking up a camera and filming whatever it is they see. There's nothing showy about it, it's just a well told story. I love that. That's what I would want to do in a movie. And it isn't just the handheld or the simple shooting style (in some cases, maybe not so much with La Haine), it's that the actual craft only exists to serve the film.

It's thrilling and, what's more, is it's emotionally effecting. It manages to bring up movies like Alive without distancing you from the moment. It doesn't come off as the movie telling you a joke, it comes off as a group of men lost in the woods talking to each other. It's natural and being lost in the woods is naturally terrifying. You don't need to do a whole lot else with that except not fumble the ball.

 In a way the movie is one of the strongest arguments I've ever seen for nihilism on film. Even Gaspar Noe has more hope hidden away in his films than this one.

Not only do you have a main character explicitly stating that he doesn't believe in God or the afterlife, but you have another character making the argument that there isn't anything else in this universe besides the life you have and that's one of the core arguments for nihilism as I understand it.

But to say that the movie is "atheistic" or nihilistic, to me, is taking the simplist interpretation of the film. While I don't think it's a hidden argument for embracing Christ as your savior, there is much more to be said about this film's theological outlook than "Your god will not save you." It's arguments like that that make teenagers on the internet so very boring and makes them the exact opposite of well done wolf movies.

Also, I appreciate the only use of the old chestnut "I'll believe in you if you just help me in this one thing" as something that actually works in this film. As cliched of a prayer as it is, it works, because this guy doesn't need a parking ticket to go away, this motherfucker is goddamn desperate.

There's another chestnut which is, "God works in mysterious ways." Cold comfort to a dying man in the wood.

But all good art allows for differing interpretations.I don't need to prove that, though, because, once again, the movie has done the work for me: It's named "The Grey."

I was going to go on about its implicit connection to  An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge* (to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, if you don't know what that is and you can read Engish, you're a twerp), as well as the theology of a movie where all of the characters have names of the Apostles (down to there being more than one John) and the general theology of your prayers not being answered, but all of that bores me. This movie is on Instant Watch as we speak.

All I want is for people to go see it. It's less than 90 minutes and it's the pinacle of what a genre movie should be.

If you just want to watch a movie where men struggle against the elements, then you'll find a very good movie in The Grey. If you want a little bit more, you'll probably find that too. So go watch it, already.

*I just had a recovered memory: There was an adaptation of this short story on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. My dad watched it and explained to me how amazing this was. It was a dick move, but I think I had to break it to him that it was one of the most famous short stories in American literature. I am a bad son.