It’s been all over the news this weekend that NASA is launching its DART mission, aka Double Asteroid Redirection Test tonight. Its spacecraft will deliberately slam into an asteroid as part of a planetary defense protection. So it’s really kismet that my hubby and I chose to watch Greenland on Saturday night, before we actually read about the news!
The 2020 disaster drama by Ric Roman Waugh focuses on a family living in Atlanta who struggles for survival as an interstellar comet is about to hit Earth and threatens to wipe out most of humanity. This isn’t Gerard Butler’s first foray into disaster flick, he just did one called Geostorm back in 2017 (which I haven’t watched) but I was curious about this one as it’s got pretty good reviews.
One might’ve regarded this movie as Greenland: Everything Has Fallen, the culmination of Butler’s ‘Fallen’ franchise (and Waugh directed Angel Has Fallen, the third movie of the series), trust me, that thought had crossed my mind. Thankfully, this one isn’t another one of those disaster porn movies popularized by Roland Emmerich, but it’s more character-driven and also offers a social commentary about the best and worst aspects of humanity in the face of a cataclysmic disaster.
Butler plays a structural engineer John Garrity whose family has been chosen by the government for an emergency shelter program. I’m not even sure a program like that exists or how such a program could work in real life, but as one would imagine, it immediately creates tension amongst their own family and friends, as those who aren’t chosen are wondering why they’re left out. Is this a random selection or is there a certain ‘science’ behind it?
Most of the movie focuses on John’s perilous journey to that emergency shelter, which if you’re wondering where it’s located, well the film’s title has practically given it away. The script, written by Chris Sparling, adds complications to John’s family dynamic with the fact that he’s estranged from his wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) is diabetic. Waugh doesn’t waste time in setting up the movie, immediately placing the characters in intense situations even just trying to reach the military base. I think setting up a good pace for a movie dealing with the countdown to the global apocalypse is key, and Waugh does a decent job of it.
All three members of the Garrity family encounter life and death situations during their journey, and most don’t even involve the comet fragments falling from the sky. As human survival instincts kick in, it brings out the worst in people. At times, some of the incidents seem ridiculous that seem to come out of nowhere, but the more I think about it, one just can’t predict what people are going to reach when they’re in absolutely desperate mode. That said, I applaud Waugh that he refrains from making this a bombastic and bloody thriller, given that Butler is famous for being an action star. In fact, this is perhaps one of Butler’s most restrained and vulnerable roles I’ve seen in a while. He’s not the typical macho tough guy, he’s an imperfect husband and father who’s doing his best and he’s believably distraught when he has to do the unthinkable in the name of survival. Baccarin also has a chance to shine as her character is gone through the wringer to keep her son safe.
Those expecting to see comet-disaster action would likely expect more explosions and thrilling sequences, but the fact that this is more of a drama, I think there are adequate intense scenes where cities, states, and countries are obliterated into pieces. The CGI effects might not be the best given its $35mil budget but it’s decent enough to show the extinction-level event. I do feel that despite the okay pacing, the movie could’ve been edited down to be closer to 90 minutes. Some of the family dynamic with Allison’s father (Scott Glenn) seems rather unnecessary but it is in keeping with the family-focused plotline. I kept thinking the still-buff Glenn would make a good sparring partner for Butler, ahah. I read on IMDb that back in 2018, Chris Evans was supposed to do this movie with Neill Blomkamp, but given Blomkamp’s affinity for blood and gore, his version would likely be a hard R.
Overall, I enjoyed Greenland and I find it refreshing to see a disaster movie that cares more about the people affected than the special effects. The thought-provoking plot and emotional focus elevate this above other movies in this popular subgenre. I certainly hope to see Butler utilizes more brain (and heart) than brawn in his films, he certainly is a compelling actor when the right material and director allow him to be. Now, with this NASA news, it seems to validate that asteroids could pose a threat to Earth. Of course, movies tend to amplify and create hyperbolic scenarios of catastrophe, but not at the expense of the human drama.
Have you seen GREENLAND? I’d love to hear what you think!