Movie Review: ‘Greenland’

Review by James Lindorf

John Garrity (Gerard Butler) has a stressful life. He is a structural engineer responsible for building the latest skyscrapers and managing dozens of workers and subcontractors. He is estranged from his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) after years of fighting. He has a young son who has type one diabetes and needs near-constant monitoring. This is all before the arrival of a comet capable of destroying 75% of life on earth. Amid terrifying accounts of cities getting leveled, the Garrity’s undertake a perilous journey searching for sanctuary from the destruction. Along the way, they experience the best and worst of humanity. To avoid a global apocalypse, they have to get their asses to “Greenland” by December 18th, when the movie will be available everywhere On Demand.

The answer to the question, what would you get if Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) co-directed a movie is Ric Roman Waugh’s “Greenland”. The thriller is the Reese’s Cup of you got your family drama in my disaster film. There isn’t enough time devoted to family drama for it to be as impactful as a Baumbach picture. At the same time, Emmerich would laugh in 2 hours of nonstop explosions if you asked him to compare the action here to one of his films.

“Greenland” is neither of the two and instead blazes its own trail, which opens the possibility for creating something unique. “Greenland” is a mostly satisfying film that is carried by its stars. This is the second of three straight partnerships between Waugh and Butler, and it is clear they enjoy working together beyond that. Morena Baccarin is fantastic as Allison, who may have the most complex role in the film. She gets to be timid and a little bitter when it comes to reuniting with John, but she also gets to be fierce in defense of their son. Butler is playing the “everyman” here and not his typical action star, which allows him to have a bit more nuanced, and he even gets to use his accent. The child actor who plays their son is serviceable but far from one of the top child actors. His role is mostly as a plot device. Are things going too well? Put the kid in danger. Do we have an idea for what to do with Baccarin at this point in the script? Ok, put the kid in trouble, and revisit her later. He is also too old and too knowledgeable to make the mistake that results in every problem and conflict the family encounters.

Waugh needed to adjust the running time of “Greenland” by about 30 minutes. That adjustment could go several ways. It could be added to the running time and focused on either the action or the family dynamics. Both are anemic and could use the boost. You could also cut the movie by 30 minutes by removing a lot of time on the road. It is time that does nothing to advance the story because they are separated, and the world-ending action is on the periphery, cutting down on the fun. Instead, this time is devoted to them encountering the worst of humanity in a variety of ways. They run into a few good people, but they are like stars in an overwhelming sea of darkness. While true to life, since it doesn’t support either of the film’s main elements, it didn’t need to be here or should have been worked in more skillfully.

Waugh isn’t going to set the world on fire with this one but “Greenland” is on par with disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. If you enjoyed them, you should have a lot of fun with this one.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Producer: Gerard Butler, Basil Iwanyk, Sébastien Raybaud, Alan Siegel
Writer: Chris Sparling
Release Date (Streaming): Dec 18, 2020
Runtime: 1h 59m
Production Co: Riverstone Pictures, Thunder Road Pictures, G-BASE, Anton Capital Entertainment, Truenorth Productions

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