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Review: Greenland – “I kept punching the air”

I fell down another IMDb rabbit hole this morning. After tweeting that I hoped Greenland (available now on Amazon Prime — what a coup!) would be Gerard Butler’s “third great film.”

Now, I wasn’t trying to be incendiary for a change, but the reaction kind of proved my point. Within minutes, we got polar opposites.

“Eh?! Third!? Name them!”

“How dare you! He’s made 20+ stone-cold stunners and don’t you dare forget ‘Dracula 2001’, you deluded bastard.”

The point being… the boy Butler is divisive and no one is more confused about that than me.

I see him in the, frankly criminally underrated, Den Of Thieves and I can’t believe that’s the same guy that’s phoned in a huge chunk of his career. That said, that’s the same for lots of actors, so why do I irrationally dislike Butler? Bruce Willis most notably has a similar “hit:shit” ratio, and I often give him a pass.

Butler is phenomenal in Den Of Thieves. Anchored by a character-driven drama, where he has a family and acts out a messy separation. He acts the hell out of it.

Within 20 mins of Greenland he’s on similar ground. Trying to do what’s right for his family after a fragment of a comet has wiped out Florida. By the end of the film, there’s no doubt it’s his best andthe best he’s ever been.

It’s impossible to watch without evoking memories of other disaster films — most obviously Deep Impact and Armageddon. It’s important to note that I adore before of those. Greenland leans far more towards the former and is all the better for it.

A key moment with a safety blanket becomes much more, leading to chaos and confusion and your worst nightmare of “one bag for the three of you”. Then — even worse — saying something you wish you hadn’t in front of the Army. Tense. Sweaty. It’s a living nightmare and sure to induce swathes of anxiety. Yet it’s also smart. It even tackles my life long hatred of “just drive on the other side of the motorway, you idiots.”

Other great films are echoed, be it War Of The Worlds or World War Z vibes. Crowd scenes, confusion and a reminder that it’s best to sometimes run the other way! The scenes of the comet breaking through the sky take on an ethereal sci-fi quality. They could be paintings.

The whole film is elevated hugely by the three roles of Father, Mother and Son. By the time Scott Glenn arrives — so great and so good to see him back — I felt like I was writing the film myself. Yes, it would’ve been brilliant to see it at the cinema — but my word we’ll take it on Amazon Prime as a Plan B.

This will be in my Top 10 of 2021, its just a question of how high up.

In Den Of Thieves the scene that broke me was Butler in his car, outside his estranged kid’s school. Here? It’s a post-it left for him. All about Family. All about asking you what you’d feel if it were you. Then another. Then another. It’s a brilliant drama. There’s a frankly terrifying scene in a Pharmacy, far too similar to recent scenes in America’s recent murky history. But it’s a distant memory by the time tiny shards tear up cars.

Then, a hope that good people will do good deeds — at a time where we all need a bit of hope. It’s very much a film about our current time. It’s relentless stuff. My toes kept curling up and I kept punching the air for different reasons. Then you think… this is an extinction event. Of course it is.

Namely when character moments played out — be it in the back of a truck, or a female character that’s actually given some breathing room. Or when something else happens and you can’t actually believe they went there. So dark.

“Thanks for looking after your Mum, bud”, “Hey Dad”. My heart wasn’t ready.

It can’t help itself but go a bit Hollywood towards the end, but it’s earned so much good well, you’re rooting for it. Maybe a timely reminder to make the most of our time, while we have it.

It’s a bold and grim film — but so much more admirable for scaling everything back. For all of the grime and darkness on show, there is ultimately hope.

You can play the whole thing out as a Covid metaphor. “Why me?”, “Why you?”, “You don’t deserve that band”. It asks some genuinely dark questions of humanity.

But in the end… there is ultimately hope.

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