Ir goes to show just how much lockdown has affected our opinions of cinema. Prior to 2020, put the keywords Gerard Butler and “disaster movie” together and the jokes about the film’s quality would write themselves. Fast forward to 2021 and Greenland is not only an asteroid-sized piece of popcorn entertainment. It is also Butler’s most affecting performance in years.
As a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity and his estranged family embark on a perilous journey to survive.
Butler is the everyman attempting to patch things up with his wife during a neighbourhood party to watch the Clarke meteor pass by the Earth. However a text alert commands Garrity and his family to pack and drive to a nearby air force base for evacuation to an emergency shelter. Clearly the situation is much more dangerous than it would appear.
Upon swift arrival at the base, things are going far too smoothly and so fate throws up a series of astrological, medical and human deus ex machinas. As the global apocalypse approaches, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.
Disaster movies are nothing new. There is always something where natural or man-made looking to wipe out humanity. In 1998, audiences waiting for an asteroid movie famously got two that summer with Deep Impact and Armageddon.
In those movies, the main focus was on the mission to prevent the disaster. Sending people into space to destroy the planet killer meteors for example. What is refreshing about Greenland, and is a better film for it, is that it grounds the action on Earth. There is an air of inevitability from the moment the alarms sound. There will be no salvation, only survival. This is one situation that Gerard Butler cannot punch his way out of.
What Butler does have to do is act. Act in the best interests of his family and well, actually act outside of his usual range of gruff action hero. Surprisingly, it works and he is an engaging, sympathetic family who leads with his heart instead of his hands.
By focusing the plot on how one particularly family deals with the fallout of this news, it helps to generate a huge amount of empathy with the Garrity family. A level that would have been diminished if the movie had been cutting back and forth between multiple characters and plotlines.
That is not to say that the film holds back on the apocalyptic action. There are explosions, car chases, fist fights and fire raining down from the sky. It would have looked mightly impressive on the big screen but doesn’t lose much (deep) impact on the small screen.
Greenland presents the end of the world as we know it in a mighty fine and entertaining way.
Greenland is available to stream on Amazon Prime now.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Stars: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Scott Glenn
Runtime: 119 minutes