Film Review: ‘The Gray Man’ is One of Netflix’s Most Emotionally Engaging Action Properties

Film Review: ‘The Gray Man’ is One of Netflix’s Most Emotionally Engaging Action Properties

The ability to move travel throughout the world without being noticed, let alone remembered, is a vital characteristic for any spy. But that ability is quickly taken away from Ryan Gosling’s protagonist of Court Gentry, a top covert operative for the American government, in Netflix’s new spy thriller, The Gray Man, after he uncovers a dark agency secret.

The actor’s character has to defend himself against new international, enemies, who will stop at nothing to take him out, after he discovers the classified information in the screen adaptation of writer Mark Greaney’s 2009 novel of the same name. The book is the first entry in a literary series about the eponymous Gray Man.

The action movie was directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the latter of whom also co-wrote the script with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The filmmakers reunited after working on four MCU features together, most recently on Avengers: Endgame.

The Gray Man. Ryan Gosling as Six. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

The Gray Man follows Court, who’s serving time in prison, as he’s chosen to be released from a federal penitentiary and recruited by handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) to become a CIA operative. Gentry, who goes by the alias Sierra Six, becomes a highly regarded, skilled agency-sanctioned assassin. However, the titular protagonist operates in a gray zone that offers the CIA plausible deniability for any murders he commits.

Unbeknownst to the agency, Six becomes a killer with a conscience, even though most of his hits, which are ordered from his superiors, don’t require much judgment on his part. That changes, however, when he and fellow agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) are ordered to kill their latest mark during a busy New Year’s Eve party in Bangkok.

When Six begins to sense that his superiors have no regard for the civilians at the party, he suddenly becomes their target. He’s pursued by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), his ruthless former cohort at the CIA, who will stop at nothing to take him out. Six soon realizes that Agent Miranda has become his only ally in the field as he sets out on a wild journey across Asia and Europe to prove his decision during the job was the right one.

The Gray Man (2022). (L to R) Rege-Jean Page as Carmichael, Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The Gray Man‘s premise initially thrives on formulaic character and plot developments of the spy genre, particularly while Six is sent on his mission by the CIA. However, the overall screen adaptation of Greaney’s novel ultimately proves to be one of Netflix’s most intriguing and engaging action properties.

The tantalizing, distinct ensemble cast of characters is led by Gosling’s commanding performance as Six. The Oscar-nominated actor shows that his protagonist’s initial loyalty to the CIA quickly turns to such discontent for its unethical policies that he’s willing to put his life in danger to try to shed public light on, and change, those tactics.

Gosling was also able to infuse his performance with a sense of relatability, due to the screenwriters’ emphasis that all Six really wants is to have control over his decisions, relationships and overall life. After eventually revealing the reason why he was sent to prison, which is linked to his difficult relationship with his father, his personal, familial connection with Fitzroy becomes even more detrimental to the drama’s overall story.

While the Golden Globe-winning actor masterfully emphasized the inventive dramatic details of Six’s life in his performance, the screenwriters also expertly balanced the intensely desperate moments he finds himself in with a surprising sense of humor. While the protagonist has a cynical acceptance of his role in the CIA, he also nonchalantly realizes that his training from the agency can stop its unethical decisions, particularly in hiring Lloyd to tstop him through his maniacal methods.

Evans infused his portrayal of Six’s news nemesis with a cunning sense of wit and banter with his cohorts to defuse the increasingly tense turmoil within the CIA. While Lloyd is corrupt and vicious, and has no sense of remorse for his actions, his sharp quips infuse the story with a surprising lightness.

The Gray Man (2022). Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Cr. Paul Abell/Netflix © 2022

The distinctly unique character-driven story in the spy thriller was visually adapted for the screen by the enthralling expertise of cinematographer Stephen F. Windon. He highlighted the emotions and motivations of Six and his ally and adversaries through his distinctive visual style.

The cinematographer smartly shot some scenes that are brightly lit and in wide angles to emphasize Six’s determination to stop the sinister plans of some of his CIA agents. Other scenes are shown in darker tones and close-up shots to show the assassin’s dismay over the situations that he can’t completely control, and don’t appear as though can be rectified.

The Gray Man proves to be one of Netflix’s most intriguing and engaging action properties. From Gosling’s compelling performance as Six, who exudes a sense of relatability as he fights for his beliefs, to Evans’ devious wit as Lloyd that provides comic relief in the dramatic story, and Windon’s visually stunning and equally symbolic  cinematography, the film is a worthy entry in the spy action thriller genre.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Karen’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

The Gray Man is now playing in select theaters and streaming on Netflix.

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