Through no fault of its own, "Greenland" is not exactly the movie that the world needs right now. Delayed from its original theatrical release and now landing on VOD, a disaster movie about an apocalyptic event wiping out humanity isn't exactly the kind of film that offers an "escape" during a global pandemic. At a different time, it might be a passable popcorn blockbuster, but in 2020, its just a major bummer.
Reuniting with his "Angel Has Fallen" director (Ric Roman Waugh), Gerard Butler is actually quite good in "Greenland." Not that he isn't normally, but his John Garrity in "Greenland" is much more of an "everyman" hero - a blue collar worker who just loves his family and wants to protect them - than his more smarmy, cocky and sharp-tongued characters we normally see him portray.
In "Greenland," every day life is just moving along, with news reports in the background of a comet that is going to be passing by Earth quite soon. We all hear stories like this in our peripheral, thinking nothing more about it and assuming nothing catastrophic would ever occur. That's pretty much how John Garrity reacts to it, an architectural engineer who is estranged from his wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their only child, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). Portrayed more realistically than in most films of the type, these parents don't hate each other and have a working relationship with one another, for the sake of their child but also because they still clearly have mutual respect for one another.
But this back-page comet news story becomes a clear and present danger with the world watching. The Garrity family watches as a comet fragment strikes Florida, doing much more damage than anticipated. Suddenly, comet fragments big and small are landing everywhere, including right outside of the Garrity's home. Panic and fear sets in. John receives a mysterious "Presidential Alert" on his phone that tells him to go to a certain location with his family and no more than one bag. Not everybody receives this text. Chaos ensues.
The first 30-minutes or so of "Greenland" is riveting. Most disaster movies deal with trying to stop the disaster, but not this film. Instead, its a survival movie that accepts that the apocalypse is coming. When the family is separated from one another, the biggest care in the Garrity's lives is not that there is impending doom, but that they need to locate one another. They're racing against a clock that cannot be stopped or diffused at the last minute.
The film's best moments occur when they arrive at the location and things begin to unravel. More than just the survival elements of the film, "Greenland" also features some good, tense sequences that shows how desperate people can become when in serious danger. Everything sets up nicely for what could have been a surprisingly effective action flick.
Alas, "Greenland" gets awfully redundant as it goes along. The middle third of the film doesn't match the first third, and it leads to a mostly unsatisfying and predictable ending.
It's a mixed reaction for sure, as "Greenland" does feel a bit different for a disaster movie in what it chooses to focus on, and Gerard Butler is able to differentiate himself from his other films in this genre. But in this case, the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and ultimately "Greenland" comes across as a depressingly dreary bummer...a film that you want to escape from, not to.
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes.
Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh ("Angel Has Fallen," "Shot Caller," "Snitch,").
"Greenland" is available on VOD on Friday, December 18th, 2020.
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