Director Ric Roman Waugh
Screenplay Chris Sparling
Starring Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Hope Davis, Holt McCallany
Greenland is the kind of film that straddles the line between disaster movie and armchair psychology about those trying to survive it at all costs. The drama is made up of decisions made in the heat of many intense moments. The result is uneven and intense, even if we are not forced to see carnage on the level of your typical giant monster movie. This might work excellently if the film were part of a series, or had a cast of actors more capable of nuance. As it is, it’s better than your average Emmerich / Devlin film, but it still falls short of something one might watch more than once.
The story starts with a family in a silent crisis. Husband John Garrity is estranged but still living with his wife Allison (Baccarin) and their diabetic son Nathan (Floyd). It’s obvious what happened, but we’re supposed to wait until the last act to be surprised. For now, they’re together and holding a gathering for the next day’s pass by of interstellar comet Clarke. This comet is supposed to pass by, but not hit earth with anything significant enough to cause damage. If this were the case, there’d be no movie though.
In the first of many intense scenes, we get the first of many bits of the comet to land, taking out the Tampa area. Being that the Garrity’s live in Atlanta, they immediately feel the shockwave. Then, awkwardly, we discover that John and his family only have been selected to be flown out to a secure location, because, one of them is useful for saving. The rest of his neighbors see this and immediately the neighbors become suspicious, jealous and panicky alternately. This is society beginning to crack, between the haves and have nots.
Before long, complications set in, the family makes it to one secure location which is not so secure and they are split up. Their journey’s diverge, foolishly avoiding the common sense of meeting nearby but out of the way. If one wonders why this has to happen, well, it’s because script. That’s why.
What follows is another hour of alternating crises that are actually pretty stressful. It’s enough to consider moving one’s family across the continent in search of safety, but most of the time, they have to do this and avoid others trying to take advantage of them by trying to “do them good,” in the Thoreau sense of the word.
Not that there aren’t moments where humans do the good of which we all would think they are capable. The moments are a tiny oasis in the ocean of misery the world is projected to quickly become. If there were some sense of continuity to the traveling, it might have more an effect. From one point, they go from Kentucky to upper New York in a matter of hours, seemingly. It throws off the sense of pending doom when we don’t know how they get where they’re going so fast with a clock supposedly ticking and backups are everywhere.
Greenland is a good film despite all of this. Butler and his Angel Has Fallen director Waugh stepped in to the roles originally occupied by Chris Evans and Neill Blomkamp. While their version might have been different, there’s no guarantee they would have made the material much better. If it were anything like Blomkamp’s recent output, it may have been worse. As it stands, it’s a good Tuesday night film, but don’t expect it to make your Friday night.
(*** out of *****)