Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Writer: Chris Sparling
Stars: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd
Nothing like a decent disaster movie every now and then. A film that can satisfy the disaster tourist in you. The number of such films that have already been made is countless. The causes of global destruction are varied. There were devastating earthquakes (“Earthquake” and only recently “San Andreas”) that lifted up plateaus and ripped apart entire metropolises. Boats that sank because of a huge wave (“The Poseidon Adventure”) or a stray lump of ice (“Titanic”). Erupting volcanoes (“Dante’s Peak”), oncoming ice ages (“The Day after Tomorrow”), tsunamis (“Lo Imposible”), or (and more appropriately at the moment) a rapidly spreading, deadly virus (“Contagion”). The storyline of such disaster films is generally the same. In the first place, you already know what’s going to happen and so you wait patiently for the catastrophic moment to kick in. Next, you’re witnessing the effects of the announced disaster. And secretly you feel that blissful moment realizing you are only a silent witness and not physically present. And each time, it ends well for the protagonists (with some random victims though). They manage to escape death in a miraculous way. Such films usually end with apocalyptic images that show how devastating it all was.
In my opinion, “Greenland” fell outside the category of films that follow such a storyline. It rather fits in the list of films in which you can also find “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”. You are aware of what drama is going to take place. But it won’t be really spectacular. The action-packed scenes in which fragments of the approaching comet hit Earth are rather scarce. A bit like in “Armageddon”, where topics such as almost impossible human missions and self-sacrifice were more central than the disaster part itself. In the latter, the spatial trip with a space shuttle was pushed to the foreground. In “Greenland” it’s the Garrity family’s trip to a certain place where John (Gerard Buttler) and his family are safe from the imminent destruction of all living things on Earth. In short, the approaching disaster shifts to the background and drama takes over. Admittedly, in many ways.
As befits a clichéd disaster film, you first have the family aspect. Usually, it concerns a family with relational problems. This is also the case here in “Greenland”. What John has actually done, isn’t explicitly stated. But rest assured, the longer the arduous journey takes, the more the mistrustful spouses grow closer together. I think that’s also a mandatory item that must be included in a disaster film. The film focuses more on the side effects of such a disaster that takes place all over the world. The hysteria and panic that arises. The looting and the massive exodus with the known monster traffic jams. The indignation felt by friends of John and Allison (Morena Baccarin), who attended a birthday party after John receives a personal message from the authorities to get himself and his family to safety in a secret place. One parent’s plea to bring her child to safety had more of an impact on me than the rest of the movie.
The rest of the film shows the arduous journey to this secret place full of obstacles and adversity. Naturally, the son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) suffers from diabetes and the vital medication shouldn’t be forgotten. And yes, you can expect problems related to that medication. In such a way that it’ll get on your nerves. Reaching the military airport to claim their reserved seats on a transport aircraft is also not without a struggle. And at some point, it all gets a bit too much. Just when you think this family has dealt with enough setbacks, the following presents itself. And although the makers have tried to give this film an extremely realistic character, it also contains some unrealistic situations, such as the chaos at the airport. I fear that if we are confronted with such a situation, in reality, a multitude of citizens would be in front of the control barriers. And the way things get resolved during these tumultuous times also sometimes seems a bit unbelievable and too good to be true.
Maybe my expectations for this movie were a bit too high and it turned out to be a rather disappointing experience. They’ve made an emotional rollercoaster rather than a disaster film “Avant la lettre”. But turn off your brain, and it’ll be quite enjoyable. And although Gerard Butler is usually associated with mindless action films, he knows how to convince in this film. Just like he did in “The Vanishing”. The very sympathetic family man who, thanks to heroism, manages to restore the broken trust. “Greenland” is certainly not a bad film, despite the shortage of action-packed and apocalyptic images. I found “2012” much worse, even though “Greenland” feels quite melodramatic at times. But this film isn’t boring. Before you know it, the 2-hour movie is finished. Unfortunately, this disaster movie wasn’t unpredictable compared to the oncoming comet.