YOUNG: A wolf in human clothing


The Grey

Starring Liam Neeson, Dermont Mulroney, Diaz Frank Grillo; directed by Joe Carnahan

This movie depicts the behavior of a certain dominant animal species. Most of the traits depicted are familiar, while others are exhibited under extreme environmental conditions (the harsh cold and snow of Alaska) following the crash of a plane that was making its way from an oil field on the North Slope of Alaska. Here is a sampling of what we see of this species in this environment:


Liam Neeson in The Grey.
Photo by Kimberley French, © 2012 — Open Road Films

It hunts other species for food and territory

It fights each other for dominance and control

It lives in a social group

It struggles to survive in a harsh, hostile environment

It seems amazingly insulated from the frigid Alaskan temperatures

It takes care of others in its group

It is at the top of the food chain

Each individual has its own personality and rank in the social structure

It lives in shelters and comes to search for food and survival

Sometimes the needs of the individual conflicts or creates friction with the group

Individuals sometime howl at the threats and mysteries in their surroundings

Males of the species frequently engage in battles to establish dominance and flex their muscle

It bands together to stave off threats to individuals and the group

It uses innovative techniques to secure food and protect against threats

It chases down food when hungry

It recoils in fear and intimidation

It fights or flees when confronted with a challenge

And in this film, this species is called... man. Surprised? If you were thinking that this film is about wolves, you’d be wrong. That’s because the species in this film is seen exhibiting the following traits:

Solitary individuals attack by running out of trees to a group of members of another species, which are busily working together and oblivious to the oncoming attack

They continue to attack and threaten other species even when this other species is not threatening to them

They appear out of nowhere from the middle of nowhere

A solitary individual uncharacteristically attacks another species around a campfire occupied by four other individuals

They seek revenge on those who kill one of their kind

They are seen scavenging and eating the dead of other species instead of hunting themselves

Their numbers seem to magically expand and grow on the landscape

They pick off a group of another species one-by-one and leave them dead on the snow instead of consuming them for food

They always seem to be at the right place and the right time to menace other creatures

After many years of study, only one species behaves in this way. And that species is... man. Surprised again? Maybe that’s because the wolves in this film are so far removed from the actual species that they appear to be humans dressed as wolves. Oh yeah, that’s in fact one of the special effects that were used — men in wolf costumes. That and the film clearly stands for the proposition that when men are removed from civilized environments, they behave like wild animals and should fear themselves more than nature. The horror, dear viewers, is in ourselves, not in the wolves. Howling, indeed!

Doug Young is the longtime film critic for The Colorado Statesman.