Ric Roman Waugh's Greenland is a grounded disaster flick that spends more time on its characters than its set pieces. Gerard Butler gives an engaged performance, while the film's action provides an entertaining end-of-the-world thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Director Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen, Shot Caller) re-teams with star Gerard Butler for Greenland, a disaster flick focused on a man and his family just trying to get to safety before a deadly comet strikes the Earth and annihilates us all. Greenland is surprisingly grounded, given the subject, but still manages to squeeze in a few dazzling visual effects amongst a sea of dependable performances. I’d even go as far as calling this one of the most well-rounded end-of-the-world flicks in recent memory.
John Garrity (Gerard Butler) is a structural engineer just finishing up another shift before heading “home” for a little party with his wife (Morena Baccarin) and son (Roger Dale Floyd). Home is in quotations as there is clearly some distance between John and his wife, which is revealed by their uneasy interactions and his feeling of guilt. But they’re still a family and he loves them and clearly wants to make things right, so he does as he’s told and heads to the grocery store to pickup some last minute supplies for their party.
This is set against the backdrop of a comet that is closely passing by Earth, but said to only be dropping partial debris if anything, before continuing on its journey.
But things stop adding up as John notices the local military starting to mobilize, followed by a presidential message of evacuation, despite the news still covering the event as not harmful.
Then shit hits the fan and government calculations start to prove to be wrong and now John, his family and the rest of the world are thrown in a panic as the end-of-days approach.
Ric Roman Waugh‘s Greenland seeks out to be an emotional disaster flick, centered on its characters and the situations that surround them instead of simply throwing the budget at the screen with explosions and chaos. Yes, there are quite a few impressive sequences of “popcorn cinema” that involve John barely escaping a situation alive, but most of the film is far more grounded than you’d expect, playing things off a bit more realistically, if such an event were to occur.
I say that because that means you’re either going to appreciate what Waugh and his screenwriter Chris Sparling are doing or you’re going to roll your eyes and call it cheesy and wish there were more explosions and mayhem.
To me, Greenland strikes that perfect balance, focusing on just one family and their struggle through this all, which allows us to emotionally invest in three characters and reflect on the rest, instead of bouncing around a million different locations and constantly trying to familiarize us with even more people.
Gerard Butler is the main focus here. He gives a dependable performance that’s rooted in family and one’s ability to survive. Butler is familiar with playing an action hero superstar in the Has Fallen franchise amongst a slew of other successful action movies, but here in Greenland he winds it back and gives us the “everyday father” performance and he does so with sincerity and truth. You generally like the character of John, despite knowing that he’s done something wrong that potentially ruined his marriage, because you believe he wants to fix things and make things better. Putting those personal issues aside, he steps up to the plate when an end-of-the-world event comes knocking at the door.
Morena Baccarin and Roger Dale Floyd play John’s wife and child with an equal amount of dependability. Baccarin’s character is put through the wringer as she fights for the protection of her son as well as attempts to mend her broken marriage with her husband and the performance highlights her range with ease. The two don’t get nearly as much screen time as Butler, but turn in steady performances that make for a balanced film.
I keep circling back to the directing and writing as I feel that director Ric Roman Waugh and writer Chris Sparling deserve big credit for making a disaster flick with some heart, without ever undermining the severity of the situation. They make Greenland serious, yet entertaining, while also action-packed and intense.
Greenland might not have as many non-stop action sequences as something like 2012, but it does take the time to slow things down and focus on its characters as they compartmentalize the idea that everything they know and love will soon be gone.
There’s a brief moment that keeps getting revisited that relates to your life flashing before your eyes at the moment of your death and John’s son asks why that can’t happen while you’re living and Waugh and Sparling do a fantastic job cutting that into the film and giving you those flashbacks to both, bring you closer to the characters, but to also highlight those important happy moments of one’s life that makes life worth living and fighting for. Some might consider this a minor throwaway moment that’s just going for the tears, but I thought it felt sincere and earned and only made the film that much stronger.
Greenland is the type of big screen entertainment that demands a cinema to be experienced, but given the current nature of the world we live in, I wouldn’t hesitate suggesting that you “settle” for an at-home rental as it is available now on PVOD. I would gladly pay the cost again to rent or own this film.
Greenland gets two thumbs up for being a disaster film that caters to both those seeking big-budget thrills and those wanting a little drama and story to go along with it. It’s not going to win any awards for being scientifically accurate but it shows how to blend together realism and escapism for that perfect slice of movie-going enjoyment.