Greenland, staring Gerard Butler, is a spectacular disaster film about a comet heading for Earth with sci-fi, domestic drama and bleak realism

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4 February 2021

Gerard Butler stars in Greenland

Gerard Butler in Greenland

Courtesy of STXfilms

Greenland
Amazon Prime Video from 5 February

Prolific stunt actor-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Snitch) reunites with his Angel Has Fallen star Gerard Butler in Greenland, an unequivocally bleak and hugely watchable disaster movie with a sci-fi edge.

The film was originally set to be released in cinemas in July 2020, but became another victim of covid-19 closures. Greenland was eventually released online in the US in December and in the UK from 5 February, so anyone hoping to catch its full destructive power on the big screen will have to settle for home viewing.

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Written by Chris Sparling (Buried) and co-produced by Butler, Greenland follows a family which must fight for survival while a planet-levelling comet races towards Earth. Structural engineer John Garrity (Butler) lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his estranged wife Allison (Homeland and Firefly star Morena Baccarin) and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd, Dr Sleep’s young Danny Torrance).

Comet catastrophe

Having moved out after an undisclosed indiscretion, John has returned to the family home to patch things up with his wife. Meanwhile, the whole neighbourhood have gathered around John and Allison’s TV to watch the near-Earth passing of a recently discovered interstellar comet, named Clarke.

Shortly before the comet is supposedly due to miss Earth by a whisker, John receives an automated call with instructions that he and his family have been selected for imminent evacuation. When the first fragment of the comet unexpectedly hits Tampa in Florida, the couple and their young diabetic son scramble to reach a nearby air force base where they are due to board a flight to safety with two days to go before the big impact.

Since this is a Gerard Butler movie, things don’t go to plan: confusion ensues as the family is separated, and they must do their best to find each other again to stand a chance of boarding a flight to safety. You can guess where the planes are headed!

Butler may have been over the top in the recent disaster movie Geostorm, but thankfully there is more to his performance this time – and to Greenland. Beyond the poor science (we are expected to believe that no one had envisaged that the comet might even come close to hitting Earth until it does, and that its trajectory wouldn’t have been calculated repeatedly), this is a genuinely spectacular production with impressive CGI of the comet and the initial impact and ­­­destruction.

Set against Geostorm’s lavish $120 million cost, Greenland’s $35 million price tag seems impressively modest. The film manages something truly unique by showing that you don’t need astronomical budgets to make a decent disaster movie.

Butler does what comes to him naturally and is hugely likeable as John, the gruff and not always squeaky clean hero. Baccarin gives a sedate and wonderfully understated performance as Allison, while Roger Dale Floyd shows once again that he has a great career ahead of him.

With plenty of soul-searching, Greenland is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact (1998) which is largely considered to be far superior to the brash and risibly over the top Armageddon. Both those earlier films were released in the same year with an almost identical premise, though Deep Impact featured nearly respectable science in places.

Greenland sits comfortably between the two, being nowhere as silly and preposterously sentimental as Armageddon and undeniably more pessimistic about the future than Deep Impact. The film’s plot can get a bit silly at times with Butler wading his way through improbable obstacles, but get past those drawbacks and it remains a genuinely impressive and thrilling film – far bleaker and more downbeat than you would expect from a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster.

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