“Man is a wolf to man”: the hidden meaning of the film The Grey (2011): the plot summary, the explanation of the ending, the meaning of the scene after the credits.
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Adventure
Year of production: 2011
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Actors: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney
tagline: “One on one with death”
Joe Carnahan managed to make a truly masculine and tough film about survival: this is a dynamic story about how a person outright loses to Mother Nature. In this regard, the plot and meaning of the film “The Grey” cannot be called original. However, there is something in the picture that still distinguishes it from dozens of similar works. In particular, this movie tells about the fact that a person cannot help but fight – simply because he is so arranged. Especially if there is something in his life worth fighting for.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the content of the film “The Grey”. The picture begins with the fact that the main character, hunter John Ottway, writes a letter to his dead wife. In the first lines, he bitterly regrets that he cannot return her and blames himself for everything.
Liam Neeson stars as John Ottway. Frame from the film.
A man shoots wolves on an oil rig in Alaska. Together with him, convicted criminals work on the tower, who cannot find work anywhere else, and it is contraindicated for them to live among people. Ottway feels sick among them. At some point, he goes outside and puts the barrel of a gun in his mouth, but does not dare to shoot.
The next day, John’s shift comes to an end, and he, along with the rest of the shift workers, enters the plane. Taking out the unfinished letter, John decides to re-read it, but an excessively talkative neighbor prevents him from doing this. To get rid of the annoyance, the hero decides to take a nap, but at that moment the plane gets into turbulence, and then falls to the ground and crashes.
By some miracle, John not only survives, but does not even receive visible damage. After regaining consciousness, he sees a burning plane and runs towards it to find the rest of the survivors and help them. One of the companions dies in his arms, after which he, as the most determined and experienced, decides to lead a small detachment and try to find at least some help.
In the rapidly approaching twilight, John suddenly sees a huge wolf devouring the body of a dead stewardess. He tries to scare away the beast, but the hungry predator furiously attacks him. Comrades save Ottway from a terrible and inglorious end.
Bandaging his wounds, the protagonist of the film “The Grey” suddenly realizes that he underestimated the situation. However, he argues, if a pack of wolves passes by, probably the animals will not touch them. But if there is a lair nearby, the survivors will not escape attacks.
Dallas Roberts played the role of Henriks. Frame from the film.
After that, John, along with his comrades, buries the dead. In the process, one of the men removes the watch from the deceased and takes his wallet. Ottway, who noticed this, in rather harsh terms, demands not to touch the belongings of the dead.
The survivors decide to spend the rest of the night around a bonfire. They are soon surrounded by a pack of wolves, but John manages to drive off the predators. At dawn, he notices a strip of forest visible in the distance and the idea comes to his mind to go there. The meaning of such a rendezvous is simple: on the plain they have no chance of surviving, and in the forest there is a chance that the wolves will fall behind. However, John miscalculated: by this time the animals had already tasted human blood and, making sure that they had met weak prey, decided to continue the pursuit.
At Ottway’s command, the survivors run down into the lowland and kindle a fire. At this point, only five remain alive. One of John’s companions, Diaz, the one who started looting, is trying to challenge his leadership. A fight ensues, during which the more experienced John wins.
In the midst of the “debriefing”, the main antagonist of the film “The Grey” appears on the stage – a seasoned alpha male. Having indicated its presence, the formidable predator slowly moves away. Soon the wolves attack again and by morning only four people remain alive.
Ottway leads the comrades on and soon they come out to the abyss. The distance between the rocks is relatively small and John believes that it can be overcome. They succeed, but another one of them dies in the process of crossing. Desperate John cries out to God for help, but the gloomy sky is silent…
The Grey ending explanation
Explanation of the ending of the film “The Grey”. Towards the end, people get to the river and find a boat. They consider this a great stroke of luck, but a badly wounded Diaz informs him that he will not go any further. After hesitating, the men, who had become friends by this point, agree to leave him to die…
However, they cannot go far – the wolves catch up with them and after the attack, only John remains alive. Tired and exhausted, he goes wherever his eyes look and, unexpectedly for himself, finds himself in the immediate vicinity of the wolf’s lair. A handsome leader comes out to meet him and challenges John to a fight. He accepts the challenge. In the last scene, he remembers his wife, after which the beast rushes to the attack.
The meaning of the ending of the film “The Grey” is incomprehensible, because it is not clear how the battle ended. On the one hand, John, who knew wolves well and had a much higher intelligence, had every chance of winning. On the other hand, by this moment he was already very tired, and a young and strong Alaskan wolf opposed him.
However, according to a common interpretation, Ottway still won the fight: he had a motive and a huge thirst for life. In addition, having gone through such a difficult path, he abandoned the idea of suicide and realized the value of life. Based on this, he could not survive.
Frame from the film.
Scene after credits
However, the key to the finale lies in the three-second scene after the credits. In it, we see that both are lying in the snow: the wolf takes its last breaths, and the main character is already dead. The meaning of the scene is that no one won this fight.
The meaning of the film The Grey
Joe Carnahan is honest with his viewers: in his “The Grey” there is no hidden meaning and all sorts of subtexts. From the very beginning, the director plunges us into a harsh, gloomy world in which there is no place for pity or mercy.
People who survived after a plane crash do not have any warm feelings for each other. They help each other only because they understand that otherwise death awaits them all: they are opposed by predatory eyes, fangs, claws, ferocious strength and fierce hatred that originated many millennia ago. People are driven by nature itself. Looking at how several people are desperately fighting for life, it is impossible not to wonder if a person hastened to declare himself its king? ..
Frame from the film.
In that case, what was the point of making this film? If initially everything is clear, then what did Joe Carnahan want to say?
According to some viewers, “The Grey” broadcasts the problem of faith and its understanding: remembering his wife and the past associated with her, the protagonist clings to him, as well as to old concepts. This is what helps him not to go crazy in a hopeless situation. Some secret, powerful (higher?) force pushes him to go further. This is necessary so that he understands: life goes hand in hand with death, and the faster you go, the more you feel alive. Survive is not given to everyone. But whoever survives will never be the same again.
And yet, the essence of the film is not only this. The name of the painting is more than justified, but it also contains an allegorical meaning. The fight here is with life and death, with the environment, with memory – and with their own bestial instincts. The howl of the wolf pack, which pursues the main characters throughout the film, echoes in unison the events that take place within a small group of survivors. The meaning of this is to show that “man is a wolf to man”, so it was and so it will be.
The director did not just leave the ending of the picture open. The culmination of all events lies in the battle between man and beast, where the devil himself will not make out who is who. They are one on one in a fair fight …
Frame from the film.
Here are a few films similar in meaning to “The Grey”:
- “Survivor” (Hong Kong, Taiwan, USA, 2015). The hunter Hugh Glass, betrayed by a comrade and left unhelped in the wild, tries to survive to get his revenge;
- “On the Edge” (USA, 1997). Billionaire Charles Morse and two of his comrades are trying to survive in the forests of Alaska. They will have to face not only their own demons, but also a monstrous cannibal bear;
- “127 hours” (UK, USA, France, 2010). During the next outing, the climber is locked in a cave from which there is no way out.
- “Frozen” (USA, 2010). Three friends arrive at a ski resort where suddenly “something goes wrong”.