Greenland review: A thrilling, thoughtful blockbuster
James R | On 05, Feb 2021
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd
Watch Greenland online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Gerard Butler. The very name of the Scottish blockbuster stalwart is enough to make a multiplex screen tremble in anticipation of the disaster movie-level mayhem about to ensue. Greenland, a film about a comet crashing into the Earth and threatening all human life, sounds like a natural step for the star of London Has Fallen and Geostorm, and it is – but not for the reasons you expect.
Butler, who voiced Hiccup’s dad in How to Train Your Dragon 2 – is one of the great gruff charmers of the big screen, bringing a grizzled heart and charisma to a role when given a chance. He’s also, as in Coriolanus or 300, capable of blending serious action with sincere drama. Greenland is a film that understands these strengths and plays to them; the patriotism required in the Has Fallen franchise is notably absent, in its place a very human desire to keep his family safe and together.
He plays John Garrity, an engineer from Atlanta who finds himself on the government emergency list when news of the comet first breaks, and is ordered to head to an exclusive military bunker (there are no prizes for guessing where it’s located) with his newly separated wife (an excellent Morena Baccarin) and his seven-year-old son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd).
What ensues is, inevitably, a frantic chase to safety, and director Ric Roman Waugh is very good at keeping the pace frenetic. That means you never stop to question the more glaring plot holes, but it also means you’re thrown into the rollercoaster ride to survive with everyone else on screen – hitching a car with strangers and pushing through a crowd when the floodlights suddenly go out all become nerve-wracking challenges.
But Greenland is a film that also makes time to weigh the human cost at stake. Rather than throw money at special effects to depict global catastrophe, Waugh focuses on the personal scale of the disaster, keeping things things immediate and relatable without descending in maudlin sentiment. Moral dilemmas rear their heads every minute, from John not being able to take more than his mandated allowance of loved ones to a pilot attempting to fit the maximum number of people on a plane without it becoming too heavy to fly.
Throughout, there’s a surprisingly sombre streak that recalls Deep Impact more than Armageddon, and in 2021, that tone feels apt for the climate in which the film’s being released. The result is a thrilling, thoughtful blockbuster. And, while the prospect of a bleak disaster movie might not sound like a fun watch right now, it’s thrilling to see a Gerard Butler vehicle that lets him drive on his own terms – right down to his natural Paisley accent.
Greenland is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.