If the threat of extinction has been playing on your mind – and well, we wouldn’t blame you right now if it was – then leaning into the worst case scenario situation as offered by a moody disaster movie might well offer some kind of catharsis. Helmed by a gruff Gerard Butler – who also co-produces – Greenland posits the not entirely unbelievable event of a football stadium-sized flaming comet crashing into earth before digging into the immediate chaos which ensues. And believe us when we say there’s a whole lot of chaos.
Directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, the fact that Greenland is relentlessly high-octane and consistently stressful is no surprise, but what’s most impressive is the fact that, aside from a few big and fiery explosions, it’s all done without lavish special effects. Instead of epic-looking impact scenes of a mega-comet, we see the human mess around it, giving us budget-friendly car chases, hammer-wielding fist-fights, quite a few frustrated traffic jams and a bunch of hammy extras looking very, very scared indeed.
Butler plays a sombre structural engineer called John who, during a visit to his equally grumpy looking ex-wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd), receives a text message saying that he and his family have been chosen for a government shelter program for which they receive wristbands which are in as much demand as Coachella VIP passes. It’s this which brings the estranged trio back together again, as they speed off to an army airbase in order to catch a flight to supposed safety. Expect it isn’t as simple as that, of course. Instead the airport is every bit as hectic as it would be trying to get a 6.05am Luton Airport EasyJet flight to Zakynthos and the family are once again split up. The rest of the movie is dedicated to bringing them back together again, both physically and emotionally, with spicy set pieces thrown in at every turn in order to keep the movie’s two hours trotting along at a decent pace.
While the film’s main trio might not be the most exciting people in the world, the cast of characters they meet along the way offer personality where Butler and co. lack it. There’s Allison’s grizzly dad Dale, played by movie veteran Scott Glenn with a burly old school charm, as well as David Denman’s sinister Ralph, who picks up Allison and her son when they find themselves stranded after looting a pharmacy for diabetic Nathan’s vital insulin supplies, with terrifying results.
Thanks to a double whammy of a global pandemic and a climate crisis, right now disaster films have never felt more pertinent, but by focusing on the stories and lives of people on the ground in favour of a more crash, bang, wallop approach, Greenland offers genuine thrills.
- Director: Ric Roman Waugh
- Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd
- Release date: February 5 (Amazon Prime Video)