(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Greenland
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: It’s the end of the world as we know it and Gerad Butler does not feel fine.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: When Greenland came out last year, I didn’t pay it much mind due to both preconceived notions and willful ignorance. I knew it was a disaster movie about a comet hurtling toward Earth, and I knew it starred Gerard Butler. “Ah,” I thought. “That’ll be dumb!” Not dumb in a bad way, mind you. But dumb in a way that didn’t inspire me to rush to see it. But I’m always the first to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong here. Greenland is not what you expect.
Yes, it’s a movie about a deadly comet and it does star Gerard Butler. But this isn’t a mindless disaster pic where Gerard Butler engages in mindless action. Instead, Greenland is a harrowing, often highly disturbing movie that tries to show what would really happen if a comet was headed towards Earth. There are one or two shots of disaster here, but this is not the type of movie that shows us CGI renditions of famous landmarks toppling over. Instead, it’s about a race against time.
Butler plays a structural engineer living a normal life with his wife (Morena Baccarin) and son (Roger Dale Floyd). There’s a comet headed towards the planet, but no one is really concerned, because all the experts are saying it’ll crash into the ocean (I was reminded of this movie recently when there was a lot of talk about the Chinese Long March-5b rocket headed toward Earth; experts said that, too, would land in the ocean – and it did. But…what if it didn’t?).
As you can probably guess, the predictions are wrong, and the comet doesn’t hit the ocean. Instead, it crashes into Tampa, Florida and kills lots of people. And that’s just the beginning – there are more comets headed towards us, and they’re going to bring about an extinction-level event. But the government has been planning for this, and they’ve selected groups of people to hunker down in a bunker in Greenland. Since Butler’s character is an engineer, he’s one of the folks chosen to survive – to help rebuild the planet.
Butler and his family attempt to get on one of the planes flying off to Greenland, but a series of events prevent them from doing so. Now, they have to find a way to get to Greenland on their own before the last of the comets hit. Greenland uses this as a springboard for a series of nail-biting, anxiety-inducing set pieces in which Butler and his family keep running into problems as they try to survive. It’s incredibly tense, and often quite disturbing. This is not the mindless escapism of a Roland Emmerich disaster pic. It’s far more chilling – and realistic. And that’s what gives Greenland its power.
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