Greenland (2021)

Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, and Gerard Butler star in "Greenland" (image: STX Films)

Review

GREENLAND (2021)

Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Hope Davis, King Bach, Joshua Mikel, Claire Bronson, Gary Weeks

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

I never understood how in the face of a disaster (in this case a pandemic and a winter storm), moviegoers want to see films about disasters. 2020 was (insert your own analogy here) and 2021 is off to a rough start which means the climate is ripe for viewing “Greenland” the newest collaboration between Gerard Butler and “Angel Has Fallen” director Ric Roman Waugh. The scenario, a PKC — that would be Planet Killing Comet to us average folk — is headed to Earth and there’s only one place to hide (see title) if you’re “on the list,” that’s even more terrifying than standing in line during my NYC clubbing days hoping I made the cut.

Perhaps they could have named this “Sky Has Fallen” as Butler once again busts out some heroic moves while faced with adversity, but surprise, the CGI special effects take a backseat in “Greenland” letting the story’s humanity, good and bad, come to the forefront. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great-looking fireballs raining down on the planet, but the film penned by Chris Sparling is focused on the family. The best and worst human qualities are on display as people scramble to do what they can to save their loved ones.

Butler plays Atlanta structural engineer John Garrity who like everyone else is caught in a race against time as the extinction-level comet Clarke hurls through space towards Earth. Live coverage of the celestial event is on all the networks as it is believed to be nothing more than a spectacular light show until a fragment breaks off and annihilates Tampa, oops go to commercial! For a minute I envisioned Patrick Mahomes riding the comet like Slim Pickens on the bomb in “Dr. Strangelove” aiming straight for Raymond James Stadium while eating Kansas City Barbecue.

Suddenly Butler receives a Presidential Alert on his phone that his family which includes estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their seven-year-old son Nathan (Roger Floyd), has been selected by some sort of lottery to head to the nearest airbase and prepare for evacuation. That’s strange, none of John’s neighbors received the message. Little do they know; the government only sent the alerts out to members of society who could be valuable in rebuilding the plant should the human race survive. John being a structural engineer makes him an essential worker who could help rebuild the cities so he and his family get a golden ticket (or wristband) to the government's fully stocked underground bunker in Greenland, made to withstand this type of disaster.

If you removed most of the CGI effects, “Greenland” would resemble an independent film with three-dimensional characters forced into an emotional situation where the characters develop over time. Here they have only 48 hours but watching the Garrity family scramble to survive becomes a relatable experience as it becomes easy to imagine how we would react in such a situation.

Plenty of obstacles are put in this family’s path and for a while, John gets separated from his wife and son so the film’s focus turns to Allison as she goes into survival mode while trying to care for Nathan who is diabetic and without insulin. Good and bad people cross their path and without knowing John’s whereabouts she’s forced to make big decisions including leaving the airbase and hitching a ride with strangers to get to her father’s ranch in Lexington, Kentucky. Sparling’s script keeps the tension up as missteps are made along the way causing our protagonists to continually change plans. “Greenland” is one big reaction after another and like real life is very unpredictable, another reason why this film works so well.

Wonderful actor Scott Glenn plays Allison’s father Dale while David Denman and Hope Davis make an appearance as good Samaritans who fall from grace as they lose sight of virtue under immense pressure. Waugh’s film goes against tropes by keeping the focus on the characters. Unless you’re a dinosaur you can’t relate to the Clarke situation, but you can relate to how we act under immense stress. Do we always make the best decisions? Do we continually second guess ourselves?

“Greenland” doesn't feature any Butler saves the human race moments but there are a few heroic scenes on a smaller scale. The inevitable is going to happen, the film never alludes otherwise, so without the possibility of false hope, the focus remains narrow and on this one family. In the end, there is hope that mankind will survive and begin again.

I should note, the temperatures in Texas this past week dipped below Greenland’s on at least one occasion as the entire state became subject to a winter storm as we’ve never witnessed before. Once again, the climate is ripe for viewing “Greenland” a disaster film in the face of a disaster. It's sunny as a write this and my water just turned back on. Hope exists.

(3 stars)

Greenland is out now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and available to rent on most streaming platforms

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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