February 09, 2021 Sarah Episode 1
Show Notes Transcript

Gerrystorm host Sarah and Get Your Comic On's Neil Vagg chat through Gerard Butler's latest movie, Greenland – a disaster film about the Garrity family's attempt to survive a comet that's on a collision course with Earth. 

We go deep into Greenland's bleak vs hopeful outlook, discuss who stole the show, and ask why grandparents in disaster movies are just so... stubborn. But even at the end of the world we also want to know all the gossip – who exactly was John Garrity playing away with when his wife kicked him out?

Plus: would we be on a Government shelter list if a comet came calling? Would Neil save both cats or just one? And what lengths would Sarah actually go to for a seat on that plane out (it's bad and she's sorry).

Warning: very spoilery!


[Music playing] 

Sarah (00:03):
Welcome to the Gerard Butler podcast, Gerrystorm, in which I take a deep dive, or sometimes a shallow belly flop, into the filmography of our greatest living Scotsman. I'm Sarah from, and I literally had to fly in from outer space.

Sarah (00:19):
If I sound croaky today, it's all the weeping I did last night re-watching Greenland, the latest disaster film from Gerard Butler. That's a Gerald Butler film about a disaster, not a disastrous Gerard Butler film, though rest assured we will get to those later in the series.

Sarah (00:33):
Greenland was released in actual cinemas in some parts of the world last summer, then in the US on digital before Christmas, and is now finally out in the UK as an Amazon Prime video exclusive. So here to reach through my veil of tears to discuss the film is Neil Vagg. Neil, would you like to introduce yourself?

Neil (00:49):
Thank you very much. My name is Neil. I am the editor in chief of Get Your Comic On. I also co-host the fortnightly-ish Get Your Comic On podcast. For anybody that wants to check us out, you can find us

Sarah (01:04):
Thank you. Okay, I'm going to give a brief-ish synopsis of Greenland. Gerald Butler plays structural engineer, John Garrity who's recently moved back in with his wife, Allison, played by Morena Baccarin, and their seven year old son, Nathan.

Sarah (01:18):
And the main topic of conversation at home and in the media is Clarke, named after Arthur C. Clarke I think, a newly discovered comet about to do a blazing fly by of Earth. But just before their own comet watch party, John finds out via a Homeland Security message that he and his family have been selected for shelter in a bunker, though initially he doesn't know where the bunkers are. But their government sanctioned trip to safety goes horribly wrong and he is separated from Allison and Nathan who is then kidnapped. The family must try to reunite before attempting to get from the US to Greenland where the bunkers are actually located.

Sarah (01:48):
So while there were plenty of explosions and deaths, as Clarke's arrival is preceded by showers of flaming rocks, Greenland is as much about the basic goodness of people in unimaginable circumstances and also about John's own personal redemption. Basically he's been playing away.

Sarah (02:02):
So I loved it. I reviewed it before Christmas for the American release and gave it four out of five. It's a lot better than Geostorm, and I say that is one of the few critics who liked Geostorm. 

So Neil, what were you expecting from it, and what did you think when you actually watched it?

Neil (02:15):
I was expecting the kind of stereotypical disaster movie, the big kind of world-ending, let's see what's happening to various people around the globe who are trying to deal with this horrible extinction level event with just some added Gerard Butler thrown in. And what I got was a much more family focused piece that was less about what was happening all over the globe and really what was happening to this one family in this huge scenario. W  hich I really, really appreciated and really enjoyed.

Sarah (02:45):
The main thing that came across to me, it's the B word, is bleak, how bleak it was. And also how, it's not unremittingly sad, but it feels like that, particularly in the first half. And I think it's interesting in terms of what Gerard Butler has done, because obviously with Has Fallen films, they've gradually become more thoughtful. And certainly the last one, Angel Has Fallen, he was older and battered and less of a Superman and more of an every man. So you could see Greenland as being this next step along from that. He doesn't stab the comet in the head; he does drink an enormous glass of water. So, like you, it wasn't what I was expecting, and I found it really moving and very, very sad. Although I found it much less stressful once they met up and got back together... 

Neil (03:33):
Yes, definitely.

Sarah (03:34):
...even though I was still unsure that all of them would make it. Clearly Nathan is going to survive. You can't kill a seven year old in a blockbuster. But I genuinely wasn't sure whether one of the parents would have to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is another theme of disaster films. But I did find that once they were together, I kind of felt, "Well, at least they're together!"

Sarah (03:58):
So certainly the second half was less bleak. But even though there's all these incidents of individual acts of people stepping up and kindness, and there's far more of them than there are people doing awful things, it was always in the back of my mind that it's all for nothing. Nearly everyone is going to die in less than 24 hours. There's even a countdown on the TV shows!

Neil (04:19):
It's all a little bit futile in the end for a lot of those people. I didn't really think about it in the first watch, but second watch and third watch - because I just can't stop watching this film apparently - I do feel really bad for all those families that are at the party at the beginning.

Neil (04:36):
I mean you get that really harrowing scene where they're just flinging their children at the Garrity family car and say, "Take my daughter," like, "Take me with you." They were all saying, "Where can we go? Where can we go?" Actually it's pointless, because you're done. You're dead. There is nowhere to go.

Sarah (04:51):
There is nowhere. One of the things I thought it did really well, the idea that the world is just gradually catching fire all around. You're right, there's nowhere to run. And of course John is right when they're driving away and Allison wants to go back for their friend's daughter. And he's like, "Well, what can we do? They won't let her on. We'll have to leave her." And he's right, you have to be practical, but that must really damage you.

Neil (05:20):
Something, again, that I hadn't really picked up on maybe the first watch, but I did second time around, was that Allison is a little bit entitled, I think, at the beginning. I think there's a turning point for her when she has the incident when they get to the airfield where she says to the soldier, "My husband's just gone to get Nathan's medicine".

Neil (05:41):
And I think when she has that one-on-one conversation with the army, I was going to say general, but I don't know what rank she is. The army lady, where she says to her, "Why can't you just ignore the rules and let my family on? What if it was your family?" And the soldier says to her, "My family weren't selected. 90% of armed forces weren't selected." I think that's a massive turning point for her. And I think in that moment in the car, when she's saying, "Let's turn back and go and grab the kid," she doesn't even see that. I mean I suppose there's an aspect to it that could be selfless as well, she wants to help everyone. But I think she's a bit like, "Why can't we just do it, just do what we want?"

Sarah (06:11):
I have a theory that John had an affair with Deb from the party, who is actually the mother, but I don't think Allison knows. Because at the party, when he comes in-

Neil (06:21):
There's that knowing glance, isn't there?

Sarah (06:22):
Yeah. He's just moved back in, and Deb gives him this longing look. I mean, obviously someone who looks like Gerard Butler lives in your cul-de-sac, we'd all probably be straight over if he moved in. But she gives him this extra long look, and then a friend of theirs looks at Deb, which is something I didn't pick up on the first one. But I also can't reconcile that with Allison. So I think Allison didn't know.

Neil (06:43):
I had in my notes as well, Deb gives longing glance.

Sarah (06:45):
It's funny how with an extinction level event, we still want to know who's shagging who, don't we!

Neil (06:51):
Yes, exactly. But in doing that, do you not think that this film does what other disaster films don't do, which is actually put quite a bit of genuine investment into the characters? You always get that, "Okay, this is what they were doing before the event, and then whatever happens, happens." But actually there's a lot more to the fact that he's a structural engineer, important point for later on. They've got a broken family. There's a knowing glance at the party. There's more to the characters than I think you find in a generic disaster movie, which just maybe not massively does still elevate this above those Geostorms, very sorry, -type movies. If you know what I mean?

Sarah (07:26):
Yeah. I think it does. I do think it has some disaster movie tropes, which I quite liked. So you've got the war planes flying away, the first sign that something is up. You've got the birds flying away, always the birds.

Neil (07:37):
Always a bad sign.

Sarah (07:39):
You've got the army on the move. And I think in terms of where we are now, it's one of these films that accidentally probably has struck a chord because of the pandemic.

Neil (07:47):
Yeah, definitely.

Sarah (07:48):
I quite like watching disaster-type films and pandemic type films. They almost take me out of where we are.

Neil (07:56):
Yeah, I agree.

Sarah (07:56):
I mean do you feel that?

Neil (07:59):
It's a nice bit of escapism, isn't it?

Sarah (08:02):
Yes. Like people are having it worse than us, without directly punching down.

Neil (08:06):
Yes. Absolutely. Definitely. Although I will admit on first watch, I did sit there thinking, "This is one of those things that I genuinely think is probably my worst nightmare." So first watch was definitely the most anxious of all the watches I've done of this film so far, but there was a genuine crushing weight to us watching it, thinking, "Well, this could actually happen. And what am I going to do if this actually happens? I'm probably done for."

Sarah (08:27):
Well, d you think you would be saved by the government. Bear in mind, this is the government saving you, not Film Twitter?

Neil (08:37):

Sarah (08:37):
We all love your tweets! Would they give you a place?

Neil (08:42):

Sarah (08:42):
What can you contribute to a post Extinction Level Event Britain?

Neil (08:45):
Exactly. Do you think they need sound, audio, and video editing skills in a post Extinction Level Event world?

Sarah (08:54):
There probably would be quite a lot of propaganda.

Neil (08:56):
Yeah, that might work. I'm relying on Martin, my other half, because he's a nurse.

Sarah (09:01):
Oh, yes!

Neil (09:01):
That's going to do it, surely.

Sarah (09:05):
As long as they let him bring partner and cat.

Neil (09:09):
Yeah. Well, that's the thing. Yeah. Olly [Neil's cat]... I've always said if there is some kind of disaster in London and I'm not at home, I'm fighting my way home for the damn cat, regardless of anyone else.

Sarah (09:21):
Part of me thinks I'd send the children into the bunker and take my chances with the comet. 

It would be a bit bleak for you if you got in there and then found my nine-year-old next to you talking about Roblox and his own farts for nine months before they let you out again

Neil (09:31):
That's all right, we'd find some common ground.

Sarah (09:35):
Where I live, I think everyone would be rushing home to collect the au pair and their sourdough starter. In terms of what I could contribute, very little, apart from baking.

Neil (09:45):
See, that's very important.

Sarah (09:47):
Yeah. I mean I could make bread.

Neil (09:50):
There you go, that's essential.

Sarah (09:50):
And also I'm quite stoical. So if there was a disaster I could plod on, although I probably wouldn't be the person coming up with the grand ideas. Whenever there's a disaster film and someone comes up with an idea and everyone else is like, "Well, that's really obvious," and to me it rarely is. So if this is your worst case scenario disaster, if you were plunged into a potential Extinction Level Event to fight your way out of to safety, what would you prefer? You can include zombies and supernatural things here.

Neil (10:19):
I'd probably do all right against a zombie. I've watched the Walking Dead again just over the pandemic. I feel like I'm clued up on a good zombie. I do like a good zombie movie as well. I think I could handle any angle, the fast ones, the slow ones.

Sarah (10:31):
What would your technique be?

Neil (10:32):
Well, first of all, I'd live on the second floor. So as long as they can't open doors and they can't climb stairs or get in a lift, then potentially I'm all right where I am. So I just batten the doors down. We've got a few plants on the balcony and if you grow a few veg. Only thing would be cat food. I'd have to get to Pets At Home – other pet stores are available – and load up on cat food. That'd be the only thing, but I'd probably bunker down and just go out on a run whenever I needed to.

Sarah (10:57):
One of the things that always worries me, because I do tend to think through these scenarios probably a little too deeply-

Neil (11:01):
Me too, don't worry. It's perfectly normal.

Sarah (11:03):
... is things like medicines and things like that. Not even medicines, but no contact lenses. I'm of those daily disposables, once they're gone, I've got one rather tatty pair of glasses.

Neil (11:12):
I mean you do at least get to see Allison getting the glucose and everything for Nathan this time around. That's probably about as close as you get to that level of realism in a film like this. Incredibly violent scene, which was really unexpected actually.

Neil (11:25):
I think that's one of the surprising things about this film actually is, again, not a normal trope of a disaster movie. You expect the big extinction level stuff and the odd scuffle on the way there, but you don't necessarily get the level of violence or terror that you get from that scene in the... would you call that a supermarket or chemist? It's American, it's a bit of both.

Sarah (11:44):
Pharmacy. It's a giant pharmacy, isn't it. We don't have those here.

Neil (11:48):
You don't get that level of terror where she's crawling around holding Nathan and saying, "Don't look. Don't look." And you've got that poor woman who gets shot basically in the throat, I think, with the husband crying over her. And then obviously that's when you meet Hope Davis's character who then Allison goes travelling with after that. A nice nod for Marvel fans there, because Hope Davis was Tony Stark's mum in Captain America: Civil War.

Sarah (12:13):
I didn't know that at all.

Neil (12:14):
It was one of those things where I looked at her and I thought, "I know you and you're twigging something in the back of my comic book brain." And yeah, she is Tony Stark's mum in Civil War. 

The scene with poor John and the hammer or the pickaxe on the side of the road – that is another moment that just puts the film in more dark territory than you expect in this type of movie.

Sarah (12:32):
Yeah. And when you look at his face afterwards, that says, "I had to do it and I can't quite believe I did that." I mean he is very much an everyman who's never had to deliberately hurt anybody, and the things he has to do to get back to his family. I thought when you're talking about Hope Davis, I think she's Judy In the film, isn't she?

Neil (12:49):
Judy. That's it, yep.

Sarah (12:49):
And her husband, is it Ralph?

Neil (12:50):
Ralph, yeah.

Sarah (12:51):
Judy is desperately... even though she's caught up in a situation where Ralph wants to... And they do end up kidnapping Nathan for his wristband, she does seem to at least, although she wants to save herself, also get Nathan onto a plane to save him, while her husband's clearly just doing it-

Neil (13:05):
She seems to have honest intentions, doesn't she?

Sarah (13:07):
She does, doesn't she? She's just married to a cad and a bounder.

Neil (13:11):
I find that characterisation [in the film] a little bit odd. I get that we were going through a bit of a kind of personality switch with him, but it was a very odd switch. I mean it works in the context of the film, but watching it, I'm a bit taken aback by the fact that he went from, "Let's help this family get to where they need to be," to suddenly saying, "Do you know what? I'm going to take your kid and I'm going to get him on a plane."

Neil (13:34):
I suppose it is a selfish act, because he's thinking he's going to save himself at the same time, but I can't imagine ever being that callous, especially when he's dragging Allison out of the car, that's traumatising.

Sarah (13:44):
I thought Morena Baccarin was amazing in that scene. Just the wails when she's left on the side of the road and they drive off with Nathan. And I thought Nathan, the actor, I thought was really really good.

Neil (13:55):
He was brilliant, wasn't he?

Sarah (13:56):
Child actors can be really hit and miss. They did give him a terrible haircut. They always seem to give American child actors awful haircuts in films.

Neil (13:59):
They did, didn't they?

Sarah (14:00):
But there's some scenes like when Judy and Ralph get him to the airbase and they're trying to talk their way through to get onto the planes. And Nathan, even though he's only little, tells the soldiers that these are not his parents. And then one of the soldiers takes him to one side and Nathan's just crying, it's just such a sweet scene. I was crying watching it.

Neil (14:22):
It is. 

Sarah (14:23):
And also watching it, you know the soldier's going to die, who's lovely to this little boy, takes him somewhere safe where his mother can later find him. But yeah, it's just one more person who's going to die. 

Quite a lot of the violence you see is film reports, and it's people's home footage and livestreams on their phones and things like that. And there's one where they're showing this livestream where this bloke basically gets hit by a bit of comet as he's talking about it. But there's a really great quote, I think it's an emergency worker, I think it's probably a firefighter, and you see them trying to fight this massive fire and these two firemen with this little hose.

Neil (15:02):
Oh yes, I know the scene you mean.

Sarah (15:04):
He says, "We're just trying to keep up and have it in the back of our head that tomorrow it's all gonna be for nothing." And that just really stayed with me. This nameless person who, if he doesn't die that night fighting these fires, will die the next day. And they're still trying to do what they can. And you think, "Why are they doing that?" I mean I was going to ask you specifically about how realistic you think it is in terms of how likely people would step up? And I can see there being a psychological thing there in that keeping to rules makes people feel better, even when things are awful. Even though it's only by breaking rules that John actually gets his family to Greenland, because they don't have their wristbands by that time. And so they don't even know if they're going to get in the bunker. But I think that makes people feel better. And also maybe, you have nothing to lose by being kind, because you're going to die if you're evil and you're going to die if you're good.

Sarah (15:57):
But I found that interesting. Watching disaster films, I always think to myself, I'd do something heroic. But always in the back of my mind is actually, I would punch a nun to get the last seat on the plane to the bunker. Or even when you were saying about kidnapping a child, would I kidnap a child to get in a bunker?

Sarah (16:14):
And partly, what do you think you would do? But also do you think that's accurate, because it's a new take on it. Normally you just see families having to dodge feral, evil people everywhere, particularly mothers trying to keep their children safe.

Neil (16:27):
It's interesting, isn't it? Firstly, this may sound terrible to anyone who's listening, but I really want to see you punch a nun, because I think that could be hilarious. You're right, I suddenly think what would I do to get on a plane to get to a bunker, to get me safe?

Neil (16:42):
Would I hit somebody in the head with a pickaxe? Possibly! I do think there is a tendency in these films sometimes to glorify some of those people like healthcare workers, or firefighters, or police. So I do think there's that kind of reverence that America has for its heroes, and I think that's why they portrayed them like this. But I'm quite an optimistic person, so I'd like to think that in that scenario there would be people that would still – knowing full well that they're doomed within the next 24 hours – that they would still be doing their job and doing the best that they could. I hope that there would be somebody that would do that, and I would like to think I would be one of those people. Not sure.

Sarah (17:23):
Yes. I once interviewed Rob Grant who made the film Harpoon? I don't know if you've seen it. It's about three extremely unpleasant people stuck out on a boat that has no power, and whether they'd eat each other. And we both decided when I was interviewing him that we would eat somebody to survive.

Neil (17:39):
Sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do.

Sarah (17:42):
Well, only [eat] a horrible person. No one nice. But I think what I did like about Greenland, was the way they... I mean we talked earlier about the deft characterisation of the other people that we do meet. Because actually when you look at the cast list, apart from the family, you only ever meet people really briefly.

Neil (18:03):
Yeah, true.

Sarah (18:03):
But they did feel very believable in how helpful they were whether it was the helper at the FEMA camp...

Neil (18:10):
I was just thinking about her actually.

Sarah (18:12):
Well, there was a man who helped Allison find Nathan there, and they go to tent after tent. Again, every tent I was thinking, "But you're all going to die." And then in the last tent, yes if you want to talk about the woman who's there?

Neil (18:29):
She put together, what was it, a week's worth of glucose. She gave him a new pump. She did basically everything she could, and then she got them on a bus to Allison's dad's. So I think that is probably what makes the bleakness of the film more, I don't want to say tolerable, because that makes it sound like it's bad. It's not bad. It is brilliant, but I think you're able to kind of cope with it, because you do get those little moments of actually there is still some hope somewhere, or there's still a good person out there, even when other people are doing whatever it is they can to survive.

Sarah (19:01):
You almost need them so that we can keep going as much as the main characters can, because you can't have unremitting bleakness throughout a film. Because it just... Well, you can, but it just becomes incredibly depressing. And even then at the end of Greenland, which finishes quite positively for a few people, you know when you just come away with this feeling like when you wake up and you've had a bad dream, but you can't remember what it was. And all day you've got this thing in the back of your mind like, "What was that?"

Neil (19:30):
I am surprised by how it ended actually. I genuinely expected, again, on first watch, because obviously I now know, but there's a point after the impact, they have that moment where Nathan says, "Where are the flashes?" Because they've talked previously about one of his friends saying to him, "You know, your life flashes before your eyes before you die."

Neil (19:50):
And it does a lovely montage of the family with Nathan growing up through certain ages, and then it fades to black and it's an extended... it probably feels like 30 seconds. It's probably only about 10 or 15 seconds, but it's quite a long fade to black before you get the hopeful bit at the end. And when it faded to black, I thought, "Yep, that's it. It's just going to say, 'Directed by Ric Roman Waugh,' and I'm going to sit here going, 'Well, what happened next?'"

Sarah (20:15):
"Did the bunker explode?" Because it's an old bunker. It's World War Two. Well, I guess Cold War, because I guess it was built to withstand a nuclear attack.

Neil (20:27):
That was the ending I expected, basically. It was that kind of generic disaster movie, sort of, "Okay, either everyone's wiped out, or it will hand you a little bit more information." And I was pleasantly surprised by what it gave us afterwards.

Sarah (20:40):
I have to say, I didn't like the montage going back over their life, partly because the way they always do this, they gave Gerard Butler really hideous haircuts all the way through.

Neil (20:47):
Yes, and shaved his stubble off.

Sarah (20:47):
Yeah, and I always find them a bit... I'm a bit cynical about those. But what I did like, even though it's a complete cliché, is at the very end, they opened the blast door, nine months later, which, that's got to be deliberate that this is about a rebirth.

Neil (21:03):
Yes, that's true. I haven't thought of that.

Sarah (21:05):
A couple of little birds turn up... Twitter reference, who knows? But when you have the soldiers from the Greenland base, and they're trying to make contact with other bases around the world. And they start popping up saying, "Oh yes, the ash is lifting." Now it's completely unrealistic in that surely they'd have been in contact all the way through.

If communications are there after nine months, surely they'd be there after three months. But I just loved those things. "This is Helsinki. This is Moscow. This is Kathmandu. This is Mumbai." It's one of those tropes that I just love.

Neil (21:42):
I wrote down, my last note, I put the quote "Ashes clearing and there's still no sign of radiation," because I then started Googling how long would the ash cloud last after an impact, and whether there would be radiation.

Sarah (21:55):
Oh, did you?

Neil (21:58):
Because I always presume from those kinds of disaster scenarios that you ever hear about, that if there was an asteroid impact, there'd be a huge cloud, the temperature would drop, everything would die out, we're all done for. And I thought, would it have settled in nine months? Because there's a lovely sunrise or sunset when they open the blast doors. And apparently actually it's maybe not completely accurate, but it's not too far out of the realm of possibility.

Sarah (22:20):
I did watch one of those interviews with Gerard Butler and I think they did try and make it reasonably scientifically accurate. Apparently he's a bit of a comet and asteroid buff. He knew the difference between the two, which I don't know.

Neil (22:32):
No, that's one of my notes actually is, what is the difference between an astroid and a comet?

Sarah (22:38):
It doesn't matter how many times I look it up, I still forget. It is a great film for post-watch Googling, I think. But the other thing is that early in the film, a few hours before impact, they get the, I guess it's the head of NASA to come on, basically to tell everyone that this is an Extinction Level Event.

Neil (22:53):
I love that phrase.

Sarah (22:54):
E.L.E. – the first time I heard it was in Deep Impact. And when, I can't remember the lead character's name, she thinks it's a woman called Ellie. And then she's told that it means Extinction Level Event.

Sarah (23:07):
But in Greenland, the NASA guy says, "75% of all life will be gone." So does that mean that some people could survive? Because my immediate thought also was, surely the ice caps would melt, which will raise sea level. So would they be coming out of the bunker in Greenland to a watery world? Maybe we're overthinking this...

Neil (23:30):
That's like the alternate ending, where they're all there, really hopeful. It's been nine months. Let's open the door. And as they open it-

Sarah (23:33):
They drown.

Neil (23:34):
... just a wall of water and they all drown.

Sarah (23:37):
Look on the bright side. But there probably might be fish that survive, you never know. But I found the ending pretty good, because they get there, they land in Greenland-

Neil (23:47):
With a bump.

Sarah (23:47):
... literally moments before impact. And then they have to run to where the bunkers are. And I was quite pleased that the soldiers did actually come and get them and didn't just say, "Well, you haven't got your bracelet on."

Neil (23:59):

Sarah (23:59):
"Your name's not down, you're not coming in." But I only realised on the second watch, at one point, just as they're taken in those trucks to the entrance to the bunker and then they have to get out and run down, because they've hardly got any time left. And you see an impact: that is actually the impact, but it takes then a couple of minutes for the blast to reach them.

Neil (24:19):
Yeah, because it is the biggest one that we've seen throughout the film, isn't it?

Sarah (24:23):
Yeah. I think that's what's happening, and then they all run down and shut the doors. I thought they might show people stuck on the outside, but they didn't!

Neil (24:29):
That's one of those tropes that they didn't use. But I think that's really, really clever the way they cherry-picked the kind of tropes that they did put in and those that they didn't.

Sarah (24:39):
They really did, didn't they? It's almost like, "Okay, we know you're wanting to watch a disaster film, so here's some things that you'll recognise, but then let's get back to the family drama." And I don't think it was massively budgeted. I think it was something like $35 million or pounds or something.

Neil (24:53):
It's not big budget, is it?

Sarah (24:53):
It's not like a £100 million, fantastic...

Neil (24:56):
But they do it well when they do do it.

Sarah (24:58):
Yes, they do. It's like I said before, it's that sense that the earth is on fire.

Neil (25:02):
There's one shot, this will probably sound really cruel, but I think it's probably my favourite shot in the whole film. So they're reunited, they're on their way to the airport, and they get stuck in a traffic jam, as is always the case in this kind of film. And then they get the announcement on the radio that says, "If you're in this area, you need to seek shelter, because there's about to be a firestorm."

Neil (25:21):
And they go off road, and there's this poor woman running along the side of the road who just gets smacked clean in the back by a rock. And she just hits the deck with her back on fire. And I know I shouldn't laugh, but I think probably going into this film, that was the thing I was thinking of. "I need to see someone get hit whilst they're trying to run away. Someone needs to get squashed." And that was a very fulfilling moment.

Sarah (25:45):
As soon as you started talking about it, I thought, I know that's exactly the person you're going to talk about, but I thought that was a child. And I actually rewound it. And I thought it was a 12 year old boy and I thought, "They haven't really just blasted a kid with a flaming rock?"

Neil (26:04):
That would be a bit different.

Sarah (26:04):
That's probably a bit much. So maybe I think we'll go with your version.

Neil (26:06):
I really shouldn't laugh.

Sarah (26:07):
But later on, they get to that bridge. And of course he's a structural engineer, so he knows the safest bit under the bridge, you kind of go by the pillar. I'll remember that next time there's a disaster. But he and someone else pull out a man from a burning car, and I think the man... is the man dead anyway?

Neil (26:25):
He's definitely unconscious.

Sarah (26:26):
It wasn't clear whether he was dead and they'd done it all for nothing. But again, I was thinking, "Well, he's unconscious and this is great that you're doing this, but you're putting yourself at risk and he's going to die in 24 hours."

Neil (26:37):
Yep. This is pointless unless you can put him on the plane.

Sarah (26:40):
Exactly. And then there's that very eerie scene when they go through the border to Canada, and obviously no one there, completely empty. I mean there's some real moments of stillness...

Neil (26:52):
Yeah, there are.

Sarah (26:54):
... away from the burning skies. 

I mean in terms of the performances, who impressed you most?

Neil (26:59):
So, I think I will definitely have told you about this before, but Morena Baccarin, just insane in this film. So I've known of her for a long time, because she was in Joss Whedon – probably not supposed to say that name anymore – she was in the Firefly TV series of his, and then slightly closer to home for me, she was in the Batman-adjacent series Gotham. She was in all five seasons of that.

Neil (27:22):
So I know of her and I like her in everything that I've seen her in, but this was like next level for her. And I'll get my little soap box out, I don't understand why her name is not on the poster. That film deserves to be Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin. You can put her in a smaller font if you want to. I mean at least she's photographed a lot, but her name, I think, deserves to be on there.

Sarah (27:44):
Well, I remember when you first saw it, saying to me, she's 60% of the film.

Neil (27:48):
I think that second act is really her, isn't it?

Sarah (27:52):
Yes. I thought she was amazing. Like we were saying earlier, when Nathan is kidnapped by Ralph and Judy, it's that keening sound from a mother who's lost a child, who might never see him again in the middle of this awful, awful scenario. And I think one of the worst things, without doing the "Oh, I'm a mother" thing, okay I am going to do that. The idea of something like that happening and your child being away from you-

Neil (28:17):
Probably alone.

Sarah (28:18):
... and potentially on their own, it's almost unbearable. You feel you could cope with any horrendous end, and as long as they're with you.

Neil (28:26):
Yeah, I know what you mean.

Sarah (28:28):
You don't have to have had children to see that in her performance. I thought she was absolutely brilliant. And I've tried to stop myself when I write about this as a man tries to save his family, because actually they're both saving their family.

Neil (28:43):
Yeah. In their own way, they are both saving their family.

Sarah (28:43):
She's as on the ball as he is. She does look amazing right to the end which normally annoys me.

Neil (28:49):
Yeah, she does!

Sarah (28:49):
But she is such a beautiful woman, it would be inevitable. Even in real life, she would look amazing just before the blast.

Neil (28:55):
Even been dragged out of a car backwards-

Sarah (28:59):

Neil (28:59):
... is thrown onto the grass verge, dragged around a little bit.

Sarah (29:02):
Hasn't slept in about three days.

Neil (29:04):
Yeah, all she's done is tie her hair up. 

I don't think there's any performance that I didn't think was genuine. I think they're all really well cast throughout the whole film, even the small bit parts that you don't really see for extended periods. It's a really solid cast.

Sarah (29:24):
Nothing jars, does it?

Neil (29:25):
No, not at all.

Sarah (29:25):
Even the pilot at the end too who you just see for a few minutes when they're arguing about getting on the plane, and then the pilot brings him that first aid kit to help him on the plane. Everyone moves up. Every interaction, I think, is really, really well done. 

I really loved Scott Glenn as Allison's dad. I mean that's another disaster trope that the crusty parent stays behind. It's like in Dante's Peak-

Neil (29:51):
That's a classic.

Sarah (29:51):
I watched it the other week again: Linda Hamilton's mum decides to stay on her mountain and then dies anyway, because she's injured. There's always an elderly parent who refuses to move, but I'd like to think, unless I literally couldn't walk, I'd be trying to find a way at 90 to get myself in that bunker. But I think he's great in it.

Neil (30:11):
And that's our only extended respite from the bleakness, when we're there.

Sarah (30:19):
Yes. And it really works, doesn't it?

Neil (30:20):
It does.

Sarah (30:21):
It's really lovely actually, they're in middle America. Well I don't know much about American geography, but it's very quiet and peaceful, and there haven't been any flaming rocks out of the sky 

Neil (30:31):
Exactly. He's just sat playing cards with his friends, isn't he, when John arrives? They just sat around playing cards, as you do.

Sarah (30:37):
I hope they all get together for the last moment.

Neil (30:40):
That's the only person who I thought we may have gone back to, once the rest of the family were in the bunker. I wondered if we'd see the dad just one last time?

Sarah (30:49):
Yeah. Having a beer, playing cards with his mates.

Neil (30:49):
Yeah, and they're just sort of looking up.

Sarah (30:52):
I thought he was great. Scott Glenn said in one of those interviews that he felt that it was one of the best written disaster films he'd ever read...

Neil (31:00):
I completely agree.

Sarah (31:00):
... when he was sent the script. And I think that's true.

Neil (31:03):

Sarah (31:04):
I mean in terms of the film, is there anything else that particularly struck you about it?

Neil (31:10):
I think just how much I was surprised by it, is just the biggest thing. I like a disaster movie, so I was pretty sure I would enjoy it, but I'm so surprised by how much I've enjoyed it and how much I've enjoyed going back to it so many times. I don't often go back to them unless it's something that I catch on TV and you're like, ooh I've not seen that one in a while.

Like Dante's Peak or Deep Impact, any of those films. It'll be on TV every now and then and you think, "I have not watched this in a while. I'll give it a good watch and enjoy it." But this has rewatchability to it, which I think is really unique for this genre.

Sarah (31:49):
I suppose that's the relationships, because you do get more out of that – and now we can keep going back and see if it is a child or a woman who gets hit by that flaming rock! 

Do you have a favourite film or TV show about comets or asteroids?

Neil (32:01):
I'd probably say Deep Impact actually. It's one I've not watched in a little while, but I remember I saw it... I'm looking at it now, 1998, that's scary. I saw it at the cinema. I think that was the first disaster film I saw at the cinema, so it has that nostalgia factor for me that it's one that I really enjoy. And I think at the same time, probably gave me the now crushing fear of comets-slash-asteroids.

Sarah (32:29):
Did you prefer it to Armageddon? Did you see Armageddon at the time?

Neil (32:29):
Yes. I don't know what it was about this one. Now this is where I'm going to end up either getting the two confused or talking about a completely different, completely wrong movie – Armageddon, do we end up saving the world in the end? We do, don't we? 

Sarah (32:42):
Doesn't Bruce Willis sacrifice himself by exploding himself and the asteroid.

And do they then... Or comet, we don't know what it is, because we can't remember. And is it that they blast it into harmless pieces that just burn up on re-entry.

Neil (32:56):
Whereas Deep Impact, I think is a little more bleak of the two and a little less, "We're going to save the world." And I quite like that. Not just, "We're going to save the world."

Sarah (33:05):
Yes. I think, is it Deep Impact, I nearly said Bleak Impact, which would be a great name! That's what they should have called Greenland.

Neil (33:11):
Yes! Bleak Impact.

Sarah (33:12):
[My favourite is]: Well, it's a TV show, it's called The Last Train and it came out in 1999. So is that 21 years ago?

So it really, really stayed with me and screwed me up quite a lot. And it was before you could binge-watch things. I think it was six parts or something, six or eight parts. So you'd have to watch it every week. And it was about a train, the last train leaving London, and an asteroid hits. The train is in a tunnel. There's a motley group of passengers in this carriage, one of whom is this young woman who knows an asteroid is hitting, because her boyfriend is part of this shadowy government scientific group.

Sarah (33:55):
And he's deep in a bunker in Scotland somewhere. She's trying to get back to him. And he said to her, "You need to get out," and she's obviously mistimed it. And she has a canister of something, I can't remember what it was, because obviously I haven't seen it since 1999! I think it freezes them in sleep. When they wake up, they think the asteroid has just hit, or has hit quite recently. And it turns out they've been asleep for 50 years.

Neil (34:13):
This is ringing a bell actually.

Sarah (34:14):
And of course by this stage the country is full of feral dogs and feral people. And it's more about how they cope in the new world. I tend to prefer the build-up to a disaster and the disaster itself. I quite like society breaking down. I'm less interested in how they do years on, because it's nearly always a very depressing situation.

Sarah (34:38):
But this is actually quite interesting in terms of what people did, and sabotaging things. And she's still trying to get back to her boyfriend, who I think when she gets there, is like an old man. Methuselah. 

I did wonder if Gerry [Butler] would come out of the bunker looking like Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway.

Neil (34:53):
He just had very flat hair.

Sarah (34:55):
Yes. I think they'd obviously had to give themselves a good trim while they were in there.

Neil (34:59):
I just looked up The Last Train on IMDB and the only artwork for it is the DVD cover, which is absolutely hilarious and has this kind of amazing-

Sarah (35:07):
Oh, is it terrible?

Neil (35:08):
... sort of caption on it that says, "When a rock hits Zambia, half of Sheffield falls over."

Sarah (35:16):
They don't make straplines Like they used to. What's the Greenland strapline?

Neil (35:22):
I don't know that there is one, is there?

Sarah (35:22):
Probably something quite worthy.

Neil (35:24):
If there isn't one, it should may be Bleak Impact. There isn't one on the poster actually. It's one of those "from the producer of John Wick franchise, The Town and Clash of the Titans".

Sarah (35:34):
I decided it was a disasteroid movie, which I'm to keep using.

Neil (35:37):
That's a good one.

Sarah (35:38):
What was the other one I came up with? Cometastrophe, which is a little clunkier, but I still like it. So are you going to watch it again? 

Neil (35:49):
I think I'll give it a little bit of a break. I'll give it a little while, but it's definitely one that I will go back to you just because I think there's a lot there that's worth watching.

Sarah (35:54):
And also once you know the story, you can kind of dip in and out if you have it on in the background.

Neil (35:56):

Sarah (35:57):
I quite often, if I'm downstairs working, I have a background disaster comfort film on there, while I'm typing away.

Neil (36:05):
Just to remind you, it could be worse.

Sarah (36:07):
Yes. Homeschooling isn't actually as bad as it gets, even though Year Four Maths sometimes feels like that. 

Well, thank you very much. I hope you'll come on and talk to me about another Gerard Butler film.

Neil (36:18):
Absolutely, any time.

Sarah (36:20):
We have a lot to get through, and obviously we would love to see Oliver [Neil's cat] again, who is quite distracting!

Neil (36:25):
Yes, currently eating a cardboard box with his sister as we speak.

Sarah (36:32):
You have another cat?

Neil (36:32):
Yeah, we've got two. So you can just see Felicity in the box.

Sarah (36:34):
Yes! Felicity and Oliver. I hope you'd save both of them?

Neil (36:38):
Well, I do love both of them. However, Oliver is very much mine in that he will follow me around. He actually likes me. Felicity is very much Martin's cat.

Sarah (36:51):
So it's up to Martin to get Felicity into the bunker.

Neil (36:53):
Yes. So we had this conversation earlier when I was prepping-

Sarah (36:54):
I like your style.

Neil (36:55):
... he said, "Oh yeah, you wouldn't save me. You'd take the cat." And I said, "No, because I would be expecting you to save the other cat."

Sarah (36:59):
I think it's good always to have a plan.

Neil (37:02):
I'd leave him a post-it note, a bit like Allison did, "I'll meet you here."

Sarah (37:04):
And don't forget, John's post-it when he stole that car, "If I survive, I'll bring it back." I think that's the sequel. I think he's going to... aroad trip across a burnt-out America, taking a family car back.

Neil (37:13):
I did wonder what happened to that family. Where do you reckon they went? I did wonder whether that was going to be a moment where he'd run upstairs and they'd all have taken an overdose or something. Something really harrowing. Wat film was that? That was 28 Days Later when one of the characters goes home to the family home and finds the parents have taken overdoses and died holding hands in bed. I thought that might be one of those moments, but it didn't quite get that dark.

Sarah (37:35):
Or maybe they could have been in the bunkers in Greenland.

Neil (37:39):
They may have been selected. They could have gone, "You stole my car."

Sarah (37:42):
Exactly, "You stole my car. You owe me three grand and a tank of petrol." 

Well, thank you very much.

Neil (37:47):
It's been really fun.

Sarah (37:48):
It has been fun actually. I really enjoyed that. So, well done Gerard Butler, we like that one! 

Thank you very much.

Neil (37:56):
You are very welcome.

Sarah (37:56):
Neil Vagg, everyone.

[Music plays]