Review: Amazon Prime's Greenland offers cheap thrills, solid drama
Streamer: Amazon Prime Video
Length: 119 minutes
Gerard Butler has had an odd career when you think about it. Despite acting for yonks, the Scottish-born bloke first shot to everyone’s attention in Zack Snyder’s action-packed, unintentionally (?) homoerotic, historical stabbin’ fantasy 300 back in 2006. The movie was a monster hit and Mr Butler was suddenly in high demand.
Inexplicably, Gerard then seemed to be on a mission to star in the motliest assortment of dodgy action movies and misconceived comedies you could imagine. There was the tedious Kathryn Heigl rom-com The Ugly Truth (2009), baffling action flick Gamer (2009) and the bravely laugh-free “comedy”, Movie 43 (2013).
Don’t even get us started on the gobsmacking “Has Fallen” films, comprising Olympus Has Fallen (2013), London Has Fallen (2016) and Angel Has Fallen (2019) because they deserve their own separate article dissecting their near-heroic levels of awfulness.
Point is, Gerard Butler is a good actor and a charming bloke who struggles to find roles that suit his rough charms. Or he has an agent with a malevolent agenda against him. Hard to say at this stage, to be honest.
At first blush, Greenland looks to be another stinker from the House of Butler. The story revolves around a narky comet that’s heading towards Earth, likely to cause an extinction-level event and ol’ mate has to get his family to a bunker before it all goes tits up.
Based on Gerard’s prior experience, you might be expecting the bloke to rip his shirt off, jump onto the burning surface of the comet, scream “THIS IS EARTH!” in an accent that can only be described as “Scottish-adjacent”, and punch the celestial interloper into flaming fragments.
As goofily entertaining as that would be, Greenland is a far more subtle proposition.
Made for the (relatively) slender budget of AU$45 million, Greenland is less about broad spectacle than more grounded, human moments. Don’t get us wrong, there’s plenty of bang for your buck here, with regular explosive sequences and tense actions scenes.
However, Greenland never loses focus of the fact this is a film about people. You’ll meet, and get to know John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). You’ll understand the marital strife between the couple, and their desire to stay unified for their diabetic son.
That’s not to say these are particularly deep characters but in terms of disaster movies? Hooly Dooly, Greenland is King-freaking-Lear compared to the likes of Geostorm (another Gerard Butler shocker).
The usual disaster movie tropes are apparent, with some folks being decent and neighbourly and others using the chaos of humanity’s imminent demise as an excuse to be extremely unpleasant.
One sequence in particular, where Nathan is kidnapped, is genuinely disturbing and well-executed while remaining focused on dramatically credible reactions instead of goofy, contrived heroics.
Director Ric Roman Waugh (who also gave us the third “Has Fallen” flick and still stands to unleash the fourth) knows how to push an audience’s buttons, and while the film does become too simplistic for its own good in the third act, it’s undeniably effective.
Greenland is not a boundary-pushing work of cinematic genius. It is, however, an above-average disaster flick that actually cares about its characters and offers some often underutilised actors a solid script to work with.
Whether, after the various horrors of 2020, you’re in the mood to watch cinematic disasters is up to you. However, Greenland is a solid, albeit unambitious, bit of mostly engaging genre cinema and you could do a lot worse on a lazy Sunday arvo.
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