The disaster movie provides an opportunity to show the experience of, well, disasters from various perspectives. 1970s classics The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno brought together disparate people whose differences proved essential to their survival, a trope also used in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland follows a similar pattern to those of Emmerich, but with a serious tone more akin to those of Irwin Allen. Rather than treating the impact of a comet on the Earth as a rollercoaster ride, Greenland leans into the grim and frightening aspects of the disaster. Part of this comes from the wide scale destruction, but there is just as much horror to be found in the actions of humanity. Structural engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler) and his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) are selected for evacuation by the US government. However, no one that they know is selected, and their journey towards safety rapidly exposes the severe triage being enacted on the population. Only those designated as healthy and useful are to be evacuated, and desperation leads to panic leads to violence. There is ample destruction and some jaw-dropping spectacle, but Waugh wisely keeps the focus on the human drama, ensuring that we feel every panic-stricken step of the Garritys’ journey. The film’s commitment to this conceit results in a tense and gripping tale of family, fear and hope, that also succeeds in being emotional and moving.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 has all the features of Hollywood’s grandstanding approach to dramatising history. It’s also really good at it. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin combines a typically razor-sharp script with whip smart cuts, interweaving the story of the 1968 events that led up to the eponymous trial with the 1969 trial. In doing so, Sorkin and his ensemble cast, including Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Frank Langella and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, deliver an impassioned, sometimes grim but also witty drama that uses the courtroom as a battleground between social resistance and state oppression. Courtroom histrionics are used judiciously, while the links between potentially disparate social issues are highlighted in such a way as to demonstrate the need for resistance movements to work together. In doing so, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is not only a powerful drama, but also a deeply relevant tale of our times that, while sobering, also finds the space to be triumphant.
Movie archaeologists have been presented as dynamic adventurers, such as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. It is, therefore, refreshing to see an archaeologist who is quiet, subdued and very careful, played by that most diffident of English gents, Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes is Basil Brown, employed by Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) in 1938 to excavate a mound on her Suffolk land, a mound that proves to be of historical significance. Director Simon Stone, working from Moira Buffini’s adaptation of John Preston’s novel, follows the characters at an intimate level, allowing us to appreciate the close bond that Basil and Edith, as well as Edith’s son Robert (Archie Barnes), share with the very earth that they interact with. This bond is contrasted with other attitudes to the artefacts, and also interwoven with confrontations that the characters make with serious illness, questions of sexuality and the approaching drums of war. The end result is an exquisite and melancholy love letter to the English countryside, that also meditates upon our relationships with time and with history.