Greenland (Movie Review)

Gerard Butler stars in the extinction-level event that is Greenland, which arrived to On Demand on Friday, December 18, 2020, thanks to STX Films.

In a time when the idea of an interstellar comet extinguishing the entire human race seems like a very plausible and ironic conclusion to 2020, Greenland arrives to provide a visual of humanity’s demise. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Felon 2008, Angel Has Fallen 2019), and written by Chris Sparling (Buried 2010, The Sea of Trees 2015), this is the story of the Garrity family—John (Butler: The Phantom of the Opera 2004, 300 2006), Allison (Morena Baccarin: Serenity 2005, Deadpool 2016), and Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd: Doctor Sleep 2019, The Walking Dead: World Beyond series)—who are looking straight into the eyes of imminent death.

Greenland still

At two hours in length, Greenland cuts no corners as it takes us through the Garrity’s tense home life before Clarke, that being the deadly comet, even arrives. Of course, once the killer from space makes its presence known, the real action begins. As the plot rockets forward, the Garrity’s are told to make their way to a regional air force base where they will board an aircraft to a secretive location as one of a group of ‘selected’ families and individuals.

This falls apart quickly as John and Allison become separated amid the apocalyptic chaos and confusion. Thankfully, there’s a contingency plan in place and each of the couple knows to meet at Allison’s father’s (Scott Glenn: The Hunt for Red October 1990, The Silence of the Lambs 1991) home in Lexington, Kentucky. The problem? They live in the Atlanta suburbs and Lexington is a solid six hours north. And getting there won’t be easy, what with NASA predicting the end of the world in a matter of days.

What distinguishes Greenland from other disaster movies is its focus on the human elements of its story. Rather than reveling in doom and destruction, Waugh and Sparling offer us a heartwarming story that is focused on the love of family and the lengths we will go to for those we love. Despite the fact that the world is literally ending as the Garrity’s struggle to survive, John, more often than not, stops to try and assist others in need; putting other’s lives on an equal level with his own. How many of us can honestly say that we do this on a normal day, you know, a day when we’re not expecting Armageddon?

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By shifting focus onto its characters, Greenland weighs more heavily on the emotional upheaval inherent in its dire situation. This, in turn, makes the film work during the holidays, a time when releasing an action-laden, end of days flick would normally make very little sense. Instead, what we have is a top tier blend of action, thrills and chills, and disastrous levels of suspense coupled with real-life emotions that strike at the core. Bring Kleenex!

This comes thanks to a splendid screenplay from Sparling, coupled with some phenomenal, blockbuster level effects. A carefully nuanced score—written, arranged and produced by David Buckley (The Town 2010, Jason Bourne 2016)—caps it all off, although, without the talent of the ensemble cast, Greenland could have easily failed. Of course, Butler is a powerhouse in his own right. As his character John races against time to find his family, the talented actor allows us a window into John’s soul, where past mistakes and regrets haunt a father who is trying to do everything he possibly can to care for the family he loves. He’s an action hero with believability, and his physical strength matched with an emotionally raw sincerity keeps him likable.

Baccarin’s Allison is put through the ringer, as well. Fighting to make her way from Georgia to Kentucky with her son at her side, she shows us the rabid desperation a mother faces under such catastrophic duress. The actress is beautiful and graceful in her movements, though she allows herself to get lost in the despair of her character’s situation. And though Floyd is still quite young, the actor shows his depth as he brings Nathan to life on the big screen. An insulin-dependent diabetic, whip-smart and brave beyond his years, Floyd’s Nathan is a lovely reminder of the resiliency of children and their unceasing ability to provide hope.

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Add to all of this the pandemonium, gun fire, and comet fragments mutilating the globe, and you have a film that is jam-packed with feels. And one that, if you choose to look, does offer some interesting commentary. In fact, it’s hard not to acknowledge that the highest percentage of the ‘selected’ appear to be well-off and white—and forget anyone who has a pre-existing condition. Add to this the obvious propensity for the vile individuals that the Garrity family encounter along the way to be white. Conversely, many of the people who show true empathy and compassion are BIPOC.

But it’s important to note that Greenland isn’t a film about race or socio-economic status, per se: it’s a story that looks to remind each of us that, no matter our situation, even when facing the worst days of our lives, we can still treat each other with dignity and respect. With a cast and crew who embrace the hysteria inherent in the end of days in order to deliver a message of love and hope, Greenland truly is a perfect addition to your holiday viewing. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Greenland 5 of 5 stars. (Oh, and if the comet being named Clarke is a nod to Clark W. Griswold, Jr., then add five more stars for brilliance.)

STX Films

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