There’s Gerard Butler, some comets heading for earth and a countdown to destruction – here’s our review of Greenland.
Greenland is the kind of film you’d get if something like Armageddon or Deep Impact had run out of money half way through. This might just be a theme for Gerard Butler, too. His last hit, Angel Has Fallen, had threatened to be something of an Air Force One retread before presumably someone totted up how much that’d actually cost, and decided to get Butler off the plane and instead spend some of the savings on Nick Nolte and two dozen extra bags of gravel to shove down his throat. Very much to the benefit of the film too, I might had.
In the case of Greenland, this kicks off with all the vim of a 90s oh-shit-an-asteroid-is-about-to-hit-the-planet production. In it, we first meet Gerard Butler waiting around on a building site to sign off an invoice. He’s a builder, but that fact has precious little relevance to anything else that happens. Instead, we soon find him preparing for a barbecue with his estranged wife – Morena Baccarin – and their son. Plus some neighbours who are all very good at keeping their lawns and pruning their bushes.
Tragedy strikes when it’s revealed the there aren’t enough hot dog buns and lashings of mustard to go around, and off goes Butler with his young lad to the local store. There, his phone buzzes, but crucially just his phone. He’s had one of those Presidential Alerts that are built into the mobile phone system. It’s a secret way to tell him that he and his family have been selected to be sent to an underground bunker, to keep them safe whilst the rest of the world burns.
A less secret way would be to display the exact same message on the wall mounted television in his home. No harm trying though, and that’s just what the film does.
It’s a television on relatively close inspection that looks like it’d have trouble loading the Netflix app, but that notwithstanding, for some reason the text of the Presidential alert also appears on it in very big letters. Which is handy, because it means the assembled neighbours get to see it and realise they’ve not been chosen.
It puts them right off their hot dogs and mustard.
Because the problem facing the Earth becomes clear: it’s not just that there’s a comet heading our way, there are lots of the buggers. A series of entrée mini-comets before the planet killer, and at one stage a television news station thoughtfully runs a countdown to the end of pretty much all life.
Greenland then has a choice to make. Does it become about the effort to stop the comet hitting the Earth, picking a mix of people (including, say, a builder) to enact some crazy plan that someone like Jason Isaacs would come up with? Or does it take the more fiscally prudent option, and instead follow Butler and his family trying to patch up their differences, get to safety, and perhaps splash out a few quid on wheeling Scott Glenn in for a cameo?
Chums, it’s a bloody hoot.
The Butler, pitching his accent roughly in the spot in the Atlantic Ocean half way between Scotland an America, is very much the pair of hands and mass of facial hair you want for a film like this. Well, I do. He’s genuinely just really good at this stuff, a mighty, growling screen presence
There are details to Greenland it deserves credit to too. For instance, there’s a sequence that involves begging with some military personnel in order to be allowed to do something (yep, that’s spoiler light). Instead of writing said military figures as two-dimensional bastards whose job is to snarl back and say no, the script – from Chris Sparling – actually injects some real humanity into them.
Director Ric Roman Waugh is becoming quite the job hand at shooting action stars in a heroic way too. Previous examples: Dwayne Johnson in the perfectly fun Snitch, the aforementioned Angel Has Fallen. He perhaps doesn’t get to have much fun with the impending killer from the sky, and the striking of comets is primarily reduced to people shitting themselves on television news channels, the odd computer graphic, and a sparse number of sequences where things strike.
They’re good sequences on the whole, not least when a queue of traffic finds itself battered by stuff. But as much as you hear characters talking about an ‘extinction level event’, the film rarely makes you feel like one’s happening.
No matter though, because the zeroing in on la famille Butler is perfectly entertaining. It’s a smaller film at heart than it looks, precisely because it’s about one genetically engineered Scottish/American man who’s going to save his family come what may.
It does lack something of a full final act, though, even if you do get an ending. Sure, you get some people talking on the radio and stuff, and some lyrical shots of previous times that have been shot through some kind of Hallmark filter. But the ultimate race to try and survive oddly becomes the least interesting thing about the film.
Yet this is just the kind of film I’m mightily happy to have pumped into my veins. I remember having a conversation once with a fine reviewer for a prestigious publication where we discussed the three-star movie that you enjoy the hell out of. This is one of mine.
I’m not going to lie: I’d have quite liked to see 90s Bruce Willis with an enormous drill at some point, but in my heart of hearts I know those days are over. I’m just grateful we have Gerard Butler and his company of friends keeping the candle burning for films like this. More please.
Greenland is on Prime Video in the UK from Friday 5th February.
Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:
Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.
Become a Patron here.