Morena Baccarin

Greenland

18/02/21

Amazon Prime Video

Greenland is a disaster movie starring Gerard Butler.

I appreciate that in normal circumstances this opening sentence might be enough to dissuade many viewers from the idea of further investigation, so let me quickly add that it’s nothing like the usual Gerard Butler experience. At no point during this film does his character attempt to take on a comet with his bare hands, nor does he stare at the sky and bellow something incomprehensible. Indeed, so restrained is his performance that the nearest he comes to his regular screen persona is in a brief sequence where he buries a clawhammer in someone’s skull – but, even then, he has been severely provoked.

Butler plays structural engineer John Garrity, an everyday Joe, getting though a normal working week, and then hurrying home to try and patch up a failing marriage with estranged wife, Alison (Morena Baccarin), before doing the shopping for his young son’s birthday party. Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) is a diabetic (a fact that will figure prominently later on). He’s excited by the news that a comet, innocuously named Clarke, will soon be passing close by the earth, and it promises to provide quite a light show when its fragments begin to enter the atmosphere.

But in the supermarket, John receives a strange phone call informing him that he, together with his wife and child, have been allotted seats on a military aircraft taking them to ‘an emergency shelter.’ They must drop everything, pack a bag and report to the nearest air force base. John’s first thought is that it’s some kind of hoax. But then parts of Clarke start hitting the earth with terrifying force and all thoughts of a celebration are abandoned as the family’s first consideration becomes an urgent need to make that flight…

Greenland manages to avoid the pitfalls that blight so many of its disaster-movie predecessors. Director Ric Roman Waugh and writer Chris Sparling ensure that everything that happens is kept within the point of view of John and his family – even the inevitable explosive set-pieces are generally glimpsed on screens as they make their way across the country, a device which adds a queasy shot of realism to the proceedings. Unable to make their original flight, the trio head North, first playing a flying visit to Alison’s widowed father, Dale (Scott Glenn), and then making a desperate dash across the border into Canada, in the hope of getting aboard a flight bound for the titular island, where they are assured their only hope of survival lies.

Along the way, they encounter all kinds of hitches, most of them provided by people who haven’t been assigned a seat on a plane and who will go to just about any lengths to get their hands on one. Here is the proof, were it ever needed, that people under pressure are capable of terrible things.

The story mostly holds together (I’m sure I picked up a sizeable plot hole towards the end) and, to give the film its due, it keeps me hooked right up to the end credits and hammers through its two hour running time at a breathless, headlong gallop. It also supplies what must be Butler’s most credible performance yet. Will he follow this new path onwards or go back to his more usual “punch’em ups?” Only time will tell on that score.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Deadpool

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13/02/16

The trouble with Deadpool is, it wants to have its cake and eat it. ‘Look at me!’ it shouts, ‘I’m a superhero movie but I’m different to the rest!’ And maybe there’s a certain amount of truth in that statement, but when the ‘difference’ is a 15 certificate rather than the usual 12A and a series of knob gags directed straight to camera, well, that’s really not enough to justify our time in the cinema. I’ve had a sneaking admiration for Ryan Reynolds since the brilliant low budget indie, Buried, and he’s been the prime mover in getting this ultra-violent, potty-mouthed franchise onto the big screen, but really, I expected a bit more than this.

Reynolds plays former Special Forces Op, Wade Wilson, now reduced to beating up hoods to earn beer money. His world changes when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and a love affair ensues, but it’s cut horribly short when Wade discovers he’s in the late stages of inoperable cancer. When he’s offered the chance of salvation, the opportunity to be turned into a ‘superhero’ he reluctantly goes along with it. But the process is a slow and painful one, administered by the psychopathic Ajax (Ed Skrein) and once transformed (and hideously scarred into the process) ‘Deadpool’ swears revenge on the man who has turned him into a superman.

I don’t want to be completely negative about the film. I enjoyed the opening slo-mo credits sequence, (if the rest of it had been as classy, this would be a kinder review) and just occasionally a few of the wisecracks actually made me smirk. But the 15 rating allows for quite horrible levels of carnage and when two characters from the X-Men franchise wander in trying to enlist Deadpool to their team, it starts to feel as formulaic as any of the other spandex-clad offerings out there. Fight sequences (and there are a lot of them) seem to go on for ages and watching indestructible people being repeatedly punched in  the head really isn’t my idea of fun. For all it’s much-vaunted ‘originality,’ the film ultimately comes down to a man rescuing his girlfriend from the bad guys, a trope we’ve seen a gazillion times before.

I’d be the first to admit that this probably wasn’t aimed at the likes of me. Advance word is that Deadpool has wracked up impressive viewing figures in the USA and a sequel is inevitable. I for one, won’t be in any hurry to repeat the experience. This is a big, loud, slick slice of mayhem, with occasional signs that suggest it could have been so much more than that.

2.5 stars

Philip Caveney