The following is a true story.
Once, many years ago, I lived in Japan where I had many a memorable night hanging out in interesting places with fascinating people.
One night I was at a party where I came across a German guy sitting in the corner with the craziest looking dog I'd ever seen.
"I like your dog," I said.
"Tis not dog. Tis volf," he said.
"It's a wolf? No way," I said.
"Tis volf! Volf's name is Volfie," he said.
"Far out! Can I pat him?" I said.
"No," he said.
Turned out the bloke's name was Willie and he had been living in Japan since running away from a touring judo team in the mid-1980s. He told me that when he first went AWOL he lived under a bridge and ate frogs.
One night some Yakuza gangsters turned up and chucked something in a sack (which was wriggling) into the river. Willie dived in, grabbed the sack and found Volfie inside. The two of them had been together ever since.
Willie told me that when he first took Volfie to a vet, the guy's eyes almost popped out of his head. Fascinated by the scary-looking dog, the vet had Volfie's DNA tested, which confirmed he was, in fact, a grey wolf.
The reason I share this story is that I couldn't help thinking of Willie and Volfie, watching The Grey.
Starring Liam Neeson, The Grey is about a suicidal hunter who, along with a small bunch of others, survives a plane crash in Alaska only to find himself being hunted by wolves. On one level it's a very well-made action film but on another, far more interesting level, it's about human instinct, resilience, fear, love, death and hope.
Up until recently I didn't really rate Neeson. I thought he was one of Hollywood's most over-rated stars and had the range of a block of wood. However, the older he has got, the more interesting he has become and his fantastic performance in The Grey is full of sadness, heart, courage and longing.
I can't help thinking the death of his wife Natasha Richardson in 2009 must have been an influence.
Joining Neeson on screen is a talented bunch of gritty character actors who, like Neeson, give excellent performances. Also on fire is film-maker and writer Joe Carnahan, who directs The Grey like his life depends on it. The film is brilliantly shot, wonderfully edited and practically drips atmosphere. It's also one of those rare films that delivers both moments of heartbreaking poignancy and pulse-accelerating excitement.
The Grey is bleak and primal but occasionally brilliant and is one of the most thrilling films I've seen for some time.
BTW: If you see it, stick around for a shot at the end of the credits.