Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh
Written By: Chris Sparling
Out on VOD: December 18th, 2020
Runtime: 1Hr 59Mins
Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd
Well, if 2020 has taught me anything, it is that this year is going to be full of surprises—be it good or bad. In an environment where movie news has not been the brightest, save for a few exceptions, it is easy to cast doubts on the latest releases. And to be fair, this year has not been kind to filmmakers across the board. This is the mindset I had when I first started watching the latest film Greenland from filmmaker Ric Roman Waugh. Waugh worked and is currently in the process of making, the latest entries of the Has Fallen series with Gerard Butler. I did not have high hopes seeing as I am not a fan of those films. Hearing Greenland is supposed to be of the disaster genre, I thought, “Oh boy… A disaster film in a year that is disastrous. Oof.” It turns out I was wrong to have this mindset because Greenland is a great disaster film that focuses on the human drama rather than the visual effects we have become so accustomed to seeing within these movies. It had me at the edge of my seat, it had me holding my breath, and most importantly it had me caring about the family.
Greenland revolves around John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his wife Allison Garrity (Morena Baccarin), and their diabetic son Nathan Garrity (Roger Dale Floyd), who all strive to survive after pieces of a bigger comet, named Clarke, make an impact on Earth causing catastrophic events worldwide. Now, on paper, that seems like an eye-rolling premise. At most, maybe a popcorn flick you would catch during the matinee, or casually turn on if it were on television. Waugh exploits that notion by turning the story inside out and allowing the action to be in the background while he hones in on the arcs between the family as they move forward to get to safety. Early on, the family separates due to a medical emergency regarding their son. It’s at this point where the film picks up its anxiety and we follow each family member trying to reunite with each other before “the big comet” is supposed to hit Earth and wipe out humanity.
Waugh does a great job of handling the different situations each character faces and causes some real anxiety. Instead of making it as absurd as possible, Waugh focuses on making the events feel real and vulnerable. Now, I do not know if 2020 has caused me to have PTSD, but seeing the events play out on the screen, and seeing how humans responded, only added much more to the reality we have already experienced this year. I wish the film explored that side of humanity a bit more, but the fact they touched on that element is more than impressive—especially given the genre. I could not imagine being stuck in their situations while having a child by my side. There is a scene involving Baccarin and Floyd that just about broke my heart. I am not exaggerating when I say Greenland induces some frantic anxiety.
The film is not without some flaws, however. Some of the characters make questionable decisions that detract from the emotional pull the film aims for. It is not that the film does not address the said decisions, because often the family finds themselves in crappy situations. There are direct consequences for the most part. But it’s those decisions that made me question the motive behind the reasons. Sometimes it did not feel organic enough and was enough to remind me that I’m watching a disaster film where the filmmakers needed a plot device to move forward. So, in that sense, some of the emotional scenes seem forced.
I do not know if the visual effects live up to those expectations of other big disaster films. For me, the visual effects seemed decent since Waugh subverts the genre and sacrifices the visual appeal for the emotional appeal. The CGI is not as awful as one might think, and there are few instances where the backdrop looks artistic with comets flying down behind the characters. A part of me is grateful that it was not over the top, because it could have easily crossed that threshold. So, if you want some Independence Day level of destruction, you may be a little bit disappointed.
Overall, Greenland is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps all the events of 2020 made my heart have a soft spot seeing as the chaos presented in the movie is not as far-fetched as we would have thought if this were released a year ago. With plenty of emotional beats and high-strung situations, Waugh pulled off a film that left quite the impression on me. I have been reflecting on it all day, and there were no serious issues that left a sour taste on the viewing palette. Save for a couple of forced scenarios and maybe one or two over-the-top tropes (I mean, it would not be a disaster flick if it didn’t have at least one), Greenland is an exception I think others should see if they get the chance.
I give Greenland 4/5 stars.