Review: 'Greenland' (2020) Dir. Ric Roman Waugh
'Angel Has Fallen' director, star and composer reunite to bring a surprising amount of humane drama to the disaster genre when man-kind is threated with worldwide extinction...
A comet is expected to pass by Earth and touted as the closest passing in history. The world is excited and taken by the news, with all eyes taken to watching the skies to catch a glimpse of the comet.
Architect John Garrity (Butler), wife Allison (Baccarin) and young son Nathan (Floyd) are eager to watch the passing, but John receives a warning to take his family to a military airbase for evacuation.
It becomes clear the comet is on a crash-course with Earth, with fragments impacting around the world and destroying cities. John must race against time to guide his family to safety before it is too late for them all...
Another casualty of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, 'Greenland' battled through a limited theatrical release but to positive acclaim. It since has found its way to being secured as a VOD release via streaming platforms worldwide, proving there is always a way forward and always a market to be found. This disaster flick touches on real solar events of comets flying past Earth in their closest proximity for decades - but of course for Hollywood entertainment we are treated to a comet that flies a little TOO close, and mankind is going to suffer the consequences!
The American disaster film is a perverse spectacle of destruction, carnage, over-the-top visual effects and humanity pushed to the limit in a race for survival. From the outset, director Ric Roman Waugh (of 'Angel Has Fallen' Butler fame), lays out the foundations - media buzz about a comet bigger than anyone has seen before, a close-knit community, a broken family trying to move forward together and leading man Gerard Butler in full grizzly mode as an everyday working man who makes it clear his family are everything.
When a disaster of epic proportions threatens all of that, Butler doesn't lead a crew to destroy the comet, or rally the military; no, he just gets in his mighty truck and races to a secure evacuation with his family to save their lives.
That's the premise, and it works thanks to the a strong first half.
Butler, his diabetic son Roger Dale Floyd and wife Morena Baccarin are mysteriously pre-selected by the Department of Homeland Security to evacuate when a fragment of the comet wipes out Tampa, Florida and immediately starts a race against time as young Floyd proclaims innocently "the sky is on fire." It's a welcome sight to see Butler in a role where he gets to be a bit more humane and not a stern, flat gun-toting Special Forces operative. Instead, he works as an architect who is a working man who wants to be the best father and husband he can, and seeing him get to act in tender sequences with Baccarin and Floyd proves he's more than just an action movie star.
Where 'Greenland' works is focusing on how people react to the extraordinary. Military transports fill the skies with those selected, and the ground is littered with thousands more desperate to flee. It's an exploration of hysteria and panic, armed guards and military police try to keep the situation calm. But as each moment progresses and the situation unravels, Butler is forced not just to battle the impeding destruction around him but that of the dangerous, desperate nature of his fellow humans. A stand-out sequences in a military airbase and ravaged streets are played out brilliantly to highlight this, and is thrilling in equal measure without it being heavy on action when it just doesn't need it.
Fellow Butler / Waugh collaborator and composer David Buckley brings an eerie and almost apocalyptic score to proceedings, refraining from all out bombastic riffs. It's moody and atmospheric and bleak at times to reflect to grave situation good people find themselves in; situations forced upon often irrational thinking when trying to do what is right to survive. All the while we are reminded of the "Clarke" comet fragments hitting Earth with the haunting glimpses up in the heavens of streaks of fire racing down to the horizon.
In fact, forget your expectations of 'Deep Impact' or 'Armageddon' - this is an entirely different strand of the disaster film. There are no trips to space and hardly any CGI cities or landmarks being wiped out. Instead, the colour takes a more and more dusty orange hue following the "ever burning sky". This is much more a story of family and mankind facing practical extinction never seen before, and while it moves slowly in places, when it finds it's core message it does it well. It's only in the final twenty minutes or so that the visual effects team give you the pay-off for taking this journey, and ride out the closing moments towards finding safety in Greenland as the final 9 mile wide fragment impacts and wipes out 75% of all living beings.
It's exciting due to exploration of human behaviour in dangerous times, and never resorts to CGI overkill except when it needs to hammer home the immediate danger faced by our family.
Butler gives a solid performance away from his bespoke action roles, and proves deliver as an actor with the right thrilling material and director behind him as seen here.
'Greenland' is a co-production between Thunder Road, Anton and G-Base