Whilst big-screen disaster films are usually an equal mix of escapism and a re-conquering of realising the goodness of life itself, Greenland comes at a weird time. One: in a year of really getting to appreciate the things in life we can’t have right now, and two: a possible better understanding than we’ve ever had of surviving on basic things, not to the extreme for everyone, but hopefully a finer comprehension.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen), and written by Chris Sparling (Buried), this is an action-thriller which gets very dark and gritty, before things get brighter. Greenland focuses around the Garrity family and their survival after planet-killing comets unexpectedly take a turn towards Earth. We follow John Garrity (action-stalwart Gerard Butler), estranged wife Allison (the excellent Morena Baccarin) and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd with a natural performance) as they try to make the journey to a unique sanctuary they’ve been ‘chosen’ to shelter within but, of course, when they get there, will everything be as straight-forward as they hope? Well…
First things first, and very thankfully, Greenland is a far call from the terrible Butler-starring Geostorm, and closer in scale to The Day After Tomorrow, with a little post-apocalyptic vibe from the like of Monsters or 10 Cloverfield Lane and although there’s no alien creatures, the extra-terrestrial is the killer comet! We’re thrown deep into the end of the world and one of those ‘will the family stay alive’ tropes? There are all levels of impact damage along the way, both in a literal sense falling from the sky, and then the dangers they’ll face throughout their fight to get to a potential refuge.
Greenland is scored to high, dramatic effect by David Buckley (who also excelled on recent Russell Crowe revenge-hellscape-thriller Unhinged) and with cinematography from Fargo and Legion-alumni Dana Gonzales, you’ll experience a very gritty, dark palette that reflects the growing chaos in the world. Leading the way is Gerard Butler’s everyman which he fits with ease but also with genuine heart. The Garrity’s son Nathan has diabetes, so there’s plot-related things there, but it’s Morena Baccarin’s character Allison who brings the compassion and strength to the story, with some genuine, heartfelt emotion and connection. She makes a massive difference to situations that could border on silly, and may make you laugh when they shouldn’t, but with raw emotion on show, and the fact that she’s damn resourceful, it makes it all a bit more special.
If you’re a fan of the classic 90s action-films, I think this will satisfy. There’s a lot more focus on the human element of the end of the world than I expected, with a specific emphasis on how quickly things could break down but you also wonder if Greenland has a hint of comment regarding gun culture in the States and self-obsession in dramatic situations. The film is by no means perfect, there are several odd plot moments like people shooting guns off in a drugstore – when there’s no threat – and the crazy couple who pick up Allison and Nathan after rescuing them (no spoilers), who are desperate but it’s all a bit weird. You also wonder if everyone would fall so incredibly quickly into violence if the Earth was going to be wiped out but, of course, this is the genre for hype.
If you have kids, you will be hit with montages, as well as meteors, with earth-shattering emotional impact, and I suspect if it gets you right (especially right now), you’ll need to wipe away an equal regretful and hopeful tear. You also can’t deny the impact of the gritty side and with Butler leading the way in that respect, this is a solid action film that also adds a very welcome, positive representation of the military and healthcare throw in for good measure. Enjoy the distraction from reality!