Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Scott Glenn
…a tad too long, the score by David Buckley is super cheesy and the two leads are borderline overacting most of the time, but somehow it all feels intentional and therefore tolerable.
It’s been some time since we’ve seen a decent, large-scale disaster flick. They accounted for some of the highest grossing films of the ‘90s and director Roland Emmerich (Godzilla, ID4, The Day After Tomorrow) single-handedly tried his best to keep them alive – however, these days filmmakers seem less interested in the catastrophic event and more so in the post-apocalyptic world that follows.
Hence why Greenland feels rather fresh in its timing, and even more relevant given the fear and uncertainty that COVID triggered. Having witnessed actual footage of people fighting over toilet paper and protesting health protocol with machine guns, seeing them react very similarly on screen makes the whole thing way more terrifying.
And sure, we’ve also seen this premise before (twice in the same year with Armageddon and Deep Impact), but, given the fact that in 2021 an asteroid the size of the Sydney Opera House came within close proximity, it doesn’t feel as far-reached as many computer or alien-based threats.
Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin lead the film as John and Allison Garrity, a married couple on the rocks, reluctantly living together for the sake of their son. Around them, people are fixated on an asteroid referred to as Clarke, which is hurtling towards Earth but according to the media is supposed to disintegrate before it enters our atmosphere. Everyone quickly realises that’s not the case and with the world-ending impact now imminent, the Garritys (and most of America) race towards a super-secret bunker in a highly classified location… which isn’t revealed until about halfway through the film, even though it’s right there in the title.
Thankfully, that’s about as dumb as this gets. Sure, it’s a tad too long, the score by David Buckley is super cheesy and the two leads are borderline overacting most of the time, but somehow it all feels intentional and therefore tolerable.
Director Ric Roman Waugh, responsible for the impressive prison flick Shotcaller, again demonstrates a real knack for keeping the stakes high but not at the expense of personal connections. He smartly dodges many disaster film clichés, such as spending too long on epic landscape destruction, and he doesn’t dwell on the loss of minor characters unless it’s warranted.
Here, the action set pieces always feel localised and therefore there’s real emotional stakes. Even as the family split up, we’re aware of what’s going on around them and where they are in relation to one another. In that sense, this is more of a road trip flick than a global catastrophe, and that’s probably why it works.
That said, many clichés still remain, such as random strangers coughing up important information when they need it, the kid’s medical condition causing most of the trouble they encounter, and the fact that Butler’s character – a construction engineer – can impressively fight multiple people at once. However, if you don’t overthink it too much then the parts that make sense easily outweigh those that don’t.
In any other year, this would be a mid-tier blockbuster, but given the scarcity of similar-scale films, this one delivers – especially when the other releases we did get were so underwhelming (*cough* Wonder Woman 1984).