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Blu-ray Review The Grey Blu-ray Review - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, May 1, 2012.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    The Grey crashes onto Blu-ray with a solid presentation on disc.  The movie itself is a much deeper experience than the action-thriller you might imagine from the marketing and buzz.  It’s actually a fairly serious philosophical meditation, and it’s Joe Carnahan’s best movie, marking a few major steps above his prior films, Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team.  This time around, he has a very simple plot and has populated it with some excellent actors, including Liam Neeson (with a much more interesting role than the re-creation of “Hannibal Smith”) and Dermot Mulroney.  The Blu-ray provides an accurate HD picture and a full-throated audio experience.  A few deleted/extended scenes and a commentary round out the package.  Given the impact the film can have, this release is Recommended for rental or purchase.



    THE GREY

    Studio: Universal/Open Road/Inferno/Scott Free

    Year: 2012

    Length: 1 hr 58 mins

    Genre:  Drama/Thriller/Plane Crash/Snow


    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

    BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC @ 34 mbps

    Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps, up to 5.6 mbps)

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Film Rating: R (Violence, Language, Disturbing Content Including Bloody Images)


    Release Date: May 15, 2012




    Starring:  Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie with James Badge Dale and Anne Openshaw


    Screenplay by: Joe Carnahan & Ian Mackenzie Jeffers

    Based on the Short Story “Ghost Walker” by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers

    Directed by: Joe Carnahan


    Film Rating: 4/5


    “Once more into the fray…

    Into the last good fight I’ll ever know

    Live and die on this day…

    Live and die on this day…”


    At first glance, The Grey may look like a simple action thriller about a bunch of oil workers whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, and who must fight to survive the elements and an attacking pack of wolves.  On that level, there certainly are scenes of peril as the survivors, led by John Ottway (Liam Neeson) deal with freezing weather and wolf attacks.  The plane crash itself is one of the more harrowing sequences I’ve seen in some time.  And given the recent films of Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team), viewers could have an understandable first impression of this being a one-level survival tale.  But there really is a lot more going on under the hood.  For viewers who have already watched the movie, I’ll go into more detail in the next paragraphs.  For everyone else, I strongly recommend you skip ahead to the video and sound evaluations, so that you may experience the movie without being spoiled.  The short version is that this Blu-ray is Recommended for rental or purchase.  I can’t quite give it a Highly Recommended, but it’s just on the south side of that level for me.


    SPOILERS HERE:  READ ON AT YOUR PERIL. SERIOUSLY, DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY SEEN THIS MOVIE.  Assuming the reader has already seen the movie, the actual thought behind the movie becomes clear.  For the first 90 minutes or so, the movie seems to be about survival.  We’re presented with Ottway, a man whose wife has left him and is on the verge of suicide when the plane crash strands him and six other survivors in the wilderness.  Ottway’s attempts to keep the group together and alive as they walk south are the focus of that first 90 minutes.  And yet, one by one, nature and the wolves pick off the survivors.  Some are killed by the wolves, one by the cold, one by the water.  But with one specific exception, they all fight to the end.  The one exception, the ex-con Diaz (Frank Grillo) chooses simply to stop at the edge of a river since he can no longer keep walking.  It’s his decision that begins to clarify the story, and it harkens back to an early moment where Ottway eases the suffering of one fellow passenger who dies almost immediately after the crash.  The passenger struggles until Ottway tells him it’s alright to relax, at which point his suffering and his life end.  What we’re seeing is Acceptance, the final one of the famous Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief.  And what we’ve been seeing for much of the movie has been an enactment of all five stages.  Denial happens almost right off the bat.  Anger happens throughout, sometimes between the survivors.  Bargaining happens during a crucial campfire scene about halfway through the movie.  Depression happens at several points when the characters begin to realize the futility of their situation – usually after one of the group has been taken out.


    MORE SPOILERS.  AGAIN, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE:  An additional thought is hammered into the five stages, and it explains the approach taken by the characters and the filmmakers here.  When confronted by the wolves early on, Ottway tells the men to stare right back at their attackers and not to show fear.  His only memory of his wife (Anne Openshaw), repeated at multiple points during the movie is her telling him “Don’t be afraid.”  And Ottway tries to live by this, even as the situation grows increasingly desperate.  (This is not to say that the characters don’t experience fear at all – but rather that they try not let it run them.  As Peter Gabriel puts it in his song Darkness, “I have my fears so they do not have me.”  The point is that in the face of a hopeless situation, the characters are choosing not to crumble but instead to fight, until they have done all they can.   There is a famous quote in Hamlet that “the readiness is all.”  I’d turn to a much less grand source – the character of Dillon in ALIEN 3:  “You’re all gonna die.  The only question is how you check out.  Do you want it on your feet?  Or on your ____ing knees, begging?  I ain’t much for begging.  Nobody ever gave me nothing.  So I say ____ that thing.  Let’s fight it!”   And fight is what the men in The Grey do.  They fight until they run out of strength or other options.  In the case of Ottway, alone against the wolves, that poster image is of his final stand, going out on his feet.   Because, as we have learned from the final 30 minutes of the movie, this was never a story about fighting wolves or about men fighting nature.  The title is not a reference to the snow or the wolves.  It’s a reference to death in the rawest of terms.  If there’s a message here, it’s the one that Ottway’s wife was telling him on her deathbed – not to be afraid of death.  And in the end, Ottway feels many regrets about what has happened to the men, but he is not afraid.  (I’ll add that a very brief shot of Ottway and the dying Alpha wolf that pops up after the closing credits doesn’t mean he has escaped death – only that he has gone beyond his fear of it.)


    SPOILERS NOW OVER:  The Grey is a remarkable film, in that it can stay with the viewer for quite some time after it ends, on the strength of the simplicity of its imagery and the performances of the cast, particularly Liam Neeson.  If the viewer is a fan of him or of Joe Carnahan, this will be a must-view.  If the viewer is more casual, I can still recommend it, provided that they be aware this is not what anyone would think of as a happy adventure story.


    The Grey will be released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD on May 15. The Blu-ray has everything from the standard DVD, and adds high definition picture and sound to the movie and the special features. The Blu-ray package also includes the DVD copy of the movie on a second disc.  Instructions for downloading a digital copy and getting an Ultraviolet copy are also included in the package. 


    VIDEO QUALITY  4 ½/5


    The Grey is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that accurately presents the gritty look intended by Joe Carnahan and his team.  One thing to keep in mind here is that this is not the movie in which to see stunningly beautiful vistas of snowy Alaskan wilderness.  The intent was clearly to make this a raw look, with most colors muted and even the potential vista shots retaining a significant amount of grit and grain.  It’s a bleak look that works to tell this story.  It’s clear this was not a high-budget production, and some CGI wolf shots look a bit blurry, but the overall impact of the visuals is exactly what Carnahan had in mind.



    AUDIO QUALITY  5/5


    The Grey is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English that will literally rock the house.  This is an extremely active mix, with music and directional sound effects coming from everywhere in the home theater.  Even the quieter scenes have a healthy amount of wind and atmospherics resonating in the surrounds.  The louder scenes are quite ferocious – particularly the plane crash sequence.  Many action moments are accompanied by a heavy hit from the subwoofer that can shake the room at times.


    SPECIAL FEATURES   2 ½/5


    The Blu-Ray presentation of The Grey comes with a few deleted scenes and a director’s commentary.  The DVD edition, containing the same bonus features, is included in the packaging.  The Blu-ray also has D-Box and pocket BLU functionality.


    My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.


    BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.  


    pocket BLU – This Blu-ray includes the usual pocket BLU functionality, enabling viewers with appropriate laptop, iPad or smart

    phone integration to remotely control their Blu-ray player and access some of the bonus content from the separate device.  Also, a digital copy is available for download via the pocket BLU application.


    Commentary with Director Joe Carnahan, and Editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellmann (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This scene-specific commentary finds Joe Carnahan watching the movie with his second team of editors as they drink shots of Macallan scotch whisky.   Aside from Carnahan’s terrible pronunciation of “Macallan”, this is an extremely helpful commentary.  Carnahan and the guys get into a lot of material, including discussing scenes and ideas that didn’t make the final cut.  In one moment, they debunk an online rumor about audio elements people thought they were hearing.  In another key moment, Carnahan acknowledges his debt to Sometimes A Great Notion in his staging.  Near the end of the movie, Carnahan offers an acknowledgement to Jamin Winans for the musical cue this movie lifts from  Winans’ film Ink.  As the movie goes into the final credits, Carnahan goes on an inexplicable rant at producer Bill Johnson (one of the heads of Inferno, which helped put the movie together).  Carnahan’s comment to Johnson of “You’re lucky I didn’t murder you!” feels like there may have been some unhappy times regarding the budget of the movie.   Granted, there’s too much of the mutual congratulations and Carnahan is very impressed with his own work, but there is also a lot of good stuff to be found here.


    Deleted Scenes (22:25 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – A total of six deleted or extended scenes are presented here, from some early moments up to roughly the halfway point of the story.  There’s nothing really critical here, although the last one where the guys struggle to make a fire does convey the physical anguish the characters are experiencing.


    D-Box – The Blu-ray comes with D-Box functionality for those viewers who have this capability.  One can only wonder how D-Box would handle the plane crash sequence…


    DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the theatrical cut of the movie.  It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English (448 kbps).   The deleted scenes and commentary from the Blu-ray are included.
     

    Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device, as well as for obtaining an Ultraviolet streaming copy to be placed up in the cloud.  The instructions include a deadline of May 31, 2013 for activation.  I note again that the pocket BLU online menu also includes an option for downloading the digital copy.


    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.


    IN THE END...


    The Grey is a movie that has the potential to stay with the viewer for quite a bit longer than you would expect from a typical crash survival movie.  Which just goes to show that this isn’t a typical action thriller but rather something more complicated.  It has all the elements of a tightly constructed survival movie but is greatly helped by a more thoughtful script and some excellent performances, especially by Liam Neeson in the lead role.  It’s easily the best movie Joe Carnahan has made.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly worth a Recommendation.  The Blu-ray presents the movie with the best possible picture and sound, and an entertaining commentary to boot.


    Kevin Koster

    May 1, 2012.


    Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:


    Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode

    Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

    Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

    PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

    5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

    2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

    Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer

     
  2. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Lead Actor
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    Can you really honestly see a difference in PQ between the Oppo and the PS3? I have been contemplating (off and on) buying a dedicated player bit I don't want to spend 5 bills or more for a player unless the improvement in PQ is absolutely noticeable.
     
  3. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Edwin - I watched my PS3 happily for nearly 5 years (2006-11) and I bought my Oppo BDP-93 last year. I will say to my eyes there is a difference in PQ, in favor of the Oppo, but I would not say the difference is night and day. More like a very subtle difference. I hesitate to exaggerate it because I would hate for you to buy it and then blame me if you don't see a noticeable difference.
    I will say there are distinct advantages to the Oppo over the PS3, and these may not be enough to sway you:
    1. Much quieter (I had an original 60GB PS3 which could be quite loud, I understand the slims are quieter)
    2. Much easier, less painful to upgrade firmware (the PS3 could take many minutes because the firmware was much larger)
    3. Analog outs (if that matters to you) and some pretty solid DACs behind that.
    4. Dual HDMI out (I run one to my TV the other to the receiver)
    5. Plays both DVD-A and SACD (a plus for me, owning both types of discs)
    I will say that while the Oppo is pretty fast loading and navigating troublesome BDs, I feel the PS3 was just a bit faster (like between 5-10%). Both blow away most sub-$300 BD players in this respect. Oh, and 24hz playback for DVD is not present in the Oppo. I thought this would be an annoyance for me, but I noticed two things. One, when I do watch DVDs I'm familiar with, I don't really notice the lack of 24hz support. And two, I don't really watch DVDs all that often anyway.
    I can say I haven't ever regretted purchasing my Oppo.
     
  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I'm going to agree with Carlo on most of this.

    I too have a 60gb PS3. It's actually a replacement when my original 60gb model gave me the blinking light of death. Occasionally it makes noise - but more likely when I have a DVD in than a Blu-ray.

    Part of my reason for getting the Oppo was that I understand that the PS3 cannot process full HD sound whilst playing back 3D video. The Oppo can - so I tend to use that for my 3D viewing, among other things.

    On the other hand, the PS3 is very good for calculating bitrates, since the display function reveals them, separated for picture and sound. Further, the PS3 is friendlier for BD-Live than the Oppo. I have found the Oppo to lock up at times due to BD-Live connectivity trying to happen. And when BD-Live works on the Oppo, it's notably slower than on the PS3.

    I agree that the difference in PQ is there but not night and day.

    I'm very happy to have both players.
     
  5. Slan

    Slan Auditioning

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    My experience with the OPPO vs. two PS3s (the original fatty and then the slimboy) is that the OPPO is just slightly better on BRs and noticeably better on DVDs. More importantly, though, the OPPO sounds much smoother (on a high-end system). That sealed the deal for me. On the other hand, my wife never tires of kidding me how dumb the OPPO is because it can't even tell time (no clock).
     
  6. WillG

    WillG Lead Actor

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    From what I understand it's more taxing on the PS3 to upconvert SD video on a DVD to 1080 than it is to play native 1080p from a BD. So the fan is more likely to have to kick into a higher speed when watching a DVD. One thing that bugs me about the PS3 is that at this point still as far as I know it can't upconvert SD video contained on a BD. This can cause some issues with the display function and subtitles where they will fall out of the viewing area.
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Finally got around to watching this tonight on a rare night off. What a terrific movie! And that soundtrack just EXPLODES into your home theater.

    Yep, a movie to ponder and one I'll enjoy revisiting on occasion.
     
  8. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    I bought/ watched this recently. The revelation of "she left me" to "she left me" was a true turning point.And the ending...definitely not "spoon-fed"...
     
  9. The Drifter

    The Drifter Supporting Actor

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    Recently re-watched The Grey. Amazing film, and quite possibly Neeson's best movie - high praise, I know - but, this is truly an amazing action/suspense thriller. Great characterization in this film, re: Neeson's role & the other roles as well.

    The wolves that were after the survivors of the plane crash were much deadlier than human opponents would have been - i.e., the wolves couldn't be reasoned with, bribed, manipulated, or outsmarted - their only goal was to kill & eat the survivors. Quite chilling, and I think many of us that grew up & live in large cities (including myself) don't really have any concept about how deadly hungry & vicious wild animals can be.

    This definitely has one of the most nihilistic endings of any film I've seen - but, I also don't see how the movie could have ended in any other way. Well-done.
     
    DavidJ likes this.

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