You should know by now that I absolutely love a disaster movie. From cheesy 90s classics like Dante’s Peak and tense, emotional disaster flicks like Deep Impact, to the cheesy modern-era of big-budget blockbusters like San Andreas, I just can’t get enough of seeing the world catapulted into catastrophe.
Forgive me for being apprehensive then when I saw that Gerard Butler would be taking on the lead role in Greenland a film about a planet-killing comet hurtling towards earth. You see, as good an actor as Butler is, his film role choices of late have been, shall we say, questionable.
The ‘Has Fallen’ trilogy for instance are absolute trash and the less we say about Gods of Egypt the better, and even his last disaster film, Geostorm was only serviceable and faded into the background of this highly competitive genre. But am I right to be apprehensive or are we looking at the next brilliant disaster film? That’s what we’ll find out in this review.
John Garrity (Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) embark on a perilous journey to find sanctuary as a planet-killing comet hurtles toward earth. Amid terrifying accounts of cities getting levelled, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity. As the countdown to the global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.
If the premise sounds familiar, it’s because it is. From Deep Impact to Armageddon, the plot of Greenland is almost a carbon-copy of what we saw in those two big-budget behemoths. All the plot points are present and correct: ill child, separated parents, vague promises of safety. It’s fair to say this newbie on the block won’t be winning any points for originality.
Nevertheless, director Ric Woman Raugh, who Butler previously worked with on Angel Has Fallen (the best in that series by the way), manages to carve out just enough of a story in Greenland to allow it to form its own path, much like the comet itself and it allows for a thoroughly entertaining slice of popcorn entertainment.
Butler and Baccarin have minimal chemistry together on screen which is a bit of a shame, especially given how much screen time they have together, but their talent is undeniable. However, it is in youngster Roger Dale Floyd that the film really shines. His performance as diabetic Nathan is exceptional, without the usual irritating kid tropes that we normally see in action blockbusters.
One thing that is really worth mentioning is that like Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds in 2005 and 1998’s Deep Impact, Greenland puts the planet-destroying action very much in the background, focusing more on the characters and their experiences. This is a huge plus point, as it allows the audience to get to know and therefore care about their fates.
Of course, disaster films live and die on their special effects and I’m pleased to report that Greenland passes muster in this regard. The action scenes that are present are nicely distributed throughout the 2 hour runtime and though this does lend a ‘cat and mouse’ feel to proceedings from time-to-time, the CGI is good and filmed in a way that feels dangerous – I imagine seeing this in the cinema would have been an edge of your seat experience.
As our intrepid explorers make their way towards the film’s finale, things run out of steam a little, but the final third is punctuated by some truly emotional moments that are reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact. And while I keep circling round to that film, it’s intended as a compliment because it remains to this day the absolute pinnacle of disaster movie film-making.
Overall, Greenland is a great blockbuster that has everything you could want from a disaster movie. While the premise won’t be winning any awards for originality, it’s all been done before, committed performances and a script that actually knows what to do with its characters means this should definitely be one you check out if you’re a fan of the genre.
Greenland is available to watch for free in the UK on Amazon Prime.