Written by: Matt Patti | December 17th, 2020
Greenland (Ric Roman Waugh, 2020) 2 out of 4 stars.
Director Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland is an apocalyptic disaster movie that is releasing in December 2020, the last month of a strange year that was unlike any other and featured many unfortunate disasters, both natural and man-made. It’s almost like this film was meant to be released this year, at this specific time. Many have hypothesized that 2020’s abnormal events signal the end of times, and what better way to end the crazy year than with an “end-of-the-world” disaster flick? Fittingly, like the year 2020 was to many, Greenland is filled with suspense and tension … and is also confusing, chaotic and leaves much unexplained.
Greenland follows skyscraper engineer John Garrity, played by Gerard Butler (Angel Has Fallen), and his family, consisting of estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin, Deadpool) and son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd, Doctor Sleep) as they try to traverse a world on the brink of extinction due to a rapidly approaching comet. Originally projected to inflict minimal damage to Earth, the comet’s fragments arrive much larger than expected and hit unexpected spots on the planet, causing much death and destruction. As the panic around the world increases, John receives an important message from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that informs him that he and his family have been selected to receive shelter and to meet up at a military base for further instructions. The Garritys must now do whatever it takes to reach the base, even if it means leaving their friends and other family behind. Traveling through an Earth being torn apart by an onslaught of deadly cosmic projectiles, the family encounters many obstacles along the way, some related to the meteor itself and others as an effect of humankind’s response to such a devastating event.
Greenland pulls off a few aspects very well, namely suspense and tension that is held throughout the film. There are some scenes that are thrilling and engaging, and most action disaster flicks do this well. The thing Greenland manages to accomplish that many other disaster films do not is that it shows the desperate, ugly (human) nature of a species in crisis. There are many small moments where otherwise civil people turn on each other in an attempt to survive, and it makes the viewer question what would happen if an event like this took place. The film achieves some emotional weight when those selected to receive shelter have to tell others “no” when they ask to come along with them (as there is a strict, no-exceptions rule that only those listed in your immediate family will receive shelter). The biggest strength of the film is the spotlight brought to human behavior and how sometimes human reaction to a devastating event is more destructive than the actual event, itself. The film also features high-quality, impressive visuals that one would expect from a wide-release, big-budget action film.
Sadly, the film’s weaknesses outshine its strong points, for the most part, and there are a lot of them. The film’s pacing feels strange and there seems like there are many scenes missing that the audience does not get to see. The film’s runtime sits at 1 hour and 59 minutes, so perhaps a studio exec wanted the film to stay under the 2-hour mark and it’s possible there are many more scenes that were cut from the final version of the film. Whether this is the case or not, there are many plot points that are never shown or explained, and there is information that the characters get seemingly out of nowhere. The film contains far too many unrealistic conveniences, plot holes, and illogical outcomes to make sense.
Now, there are many popcorn action flicks out there that can be enjoyed just for fun and aren’t meant to be analyzed and taken under the microscope. However, Greenland does not succeed in this category, either, as it takes a very serious tone and spends most of the runtime attempting to be more drama-focused, as the suspenseful action scenes are few and far between. Even as a drama, though, the film still cannot find success, as its main players in the Garrity family are not compelling characters at all and the audience is not emotionally invested in them. The filmmakers choose to load up the film with random, short flashbacks of the family smiling and laughing with each other and think that this will establish an emotional connection with the viewer. It does not. The characters are plain and dry and have no real tension or connection with each other, making them lifeless and forgettable.
While Greenland has many frustrating flaws and leaves much to be desired, it still has some intriguing moments, high production values, interesting commentary on humanity, and decent performances outside of Gerard Butler’s character of John (sometimes sporting a British accent and at other times sounding American). Unfortunately for this viewer, though, the negatives outweigh the positives. However, if you’d like to end your 2020 in an appropriate way, check it out. You’ll get the full 2020 experience encapsulated in one film: experiencing wild events, seeing the best and worst in humanity, feeling like something is missing, and ultimately feeling disappointed.