Saturday, February 20, 2021

Movie Reviews: Greenland

Greenland
directed by Ric Roman Waugh
This is a disaster movie. But it's not just a disaster movie. It's a possible world ending, extinction level event disaster movie. With these sorts of films there are usually two choice the writer(s) and/or director can make. One choice usually involves some square jawed hero solemnly intoning we will not go gently into the night. Along with his ragtag group of scientists, rogues, military and a dog, the protagonist desperately attempts to avert the Apocalypse by any means necessary while also trying to reconnect with his estranged wife or child. 
The other choice takes it for granted that there is nothing that can be done. The film then has the protagonist spend the entire film's running time talking to his loved ones and examining the mistakes he or they have made with each other before the inevitable happens. In either film there are usually a number of impressive effects that show the impending doom's progression. Maybe the asteroid gets closer and smaller pieces of it hit places across the world. Maybe the ozone barrier is pierced. Each day the earth's temperature climbs or drops but gets nearer to a point where humans can't survive. And so on. 
Greenland is a hybrid of these two types of films. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps because of the relatively low budget, it doesn't have a lot of iconic disaster scenes. It concentrates much more on the struggle to survive--even if survival may literally just mean one more day.
John Garrity (Gerard Butler-not bothering to disguise his Scottish accent) is an Atlanta area structural engineer/architect. John has a young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) and an attractive but estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin). 
It appears that although John swore to marry and settle down, he's been doing a little bit of running around. Allison wasn't born yesterday; she's banished John from her bed and their house. But Allison hasn't filed for divorce yet. She recognizes that whatever else John is he's a great father and quite conscientious about doing things the right way (aside from that sex thingie). The comet named Clarke will pass very close to Earth.
John leaves work early to go back to his former home to watch the comet with his family and friends. While he's picking up some snacks and goodies at the grocery store John gets a text on his phone informing him that he, Allison and Nathan have been selected for emergency sheltering. Wondering what this means John returns home to watch the show.

However the news now reports that at least part of the comet will not be passing close by Earth but smack dab into it. A small portion of the comet will hit Tampa, Florida. And boom, just like that there is no more Tampa! The shockwaves can be felt in the Atlanta Metro area, along with the heat. It looks like the physicists and astronomers made a slight mistake. Oops.
Portions of Clarke will continue to bombard the Earth but in about two days or so, an immense Clarke fragment will hit somewhere in Europe. It's larger than the asteroid which put an end to the dinosaurs. This event means superheated atmosphere and fires worldwide, oxygen depletion, ejection of material into the atmosphere, tidal waves, earth quakes, radiation, destruction of fauna and flora, and possible blocking of the Sun. In other words, goodbye humanity, you had a good run. It's The End.
While everyone is trying to process this information, John gets another phone message. This one shows up on the smart TV, letting his neighbors see it. 
John is ordered to pack up and get himself, Allison and Nathan to a local Air Force base for evacuation. NOW. Someone has been building underground bases. As you might imagine the neighbors are not happy that John and his family have been selected over them. 
But John can't worry about that. He must save his wife and son no matter what. The film's balance details John and Allison's attempts to find safety. Greenland looks at what normal people do when their survival is at stake. If you knew there was a 99.99999999% chance that you would be dead two days from now would you make your peace with God, your conscience, and your loved ones, or would you keep fighting for that last bit of life, no matter how short?
John and Allison are not superhuman. I liked that neither parent was perfect. Both made mistakes. But John and Allison do each have a fierce love for their son and for, as they discover, each other. The special effects are fewer than I expected for this kind of story. All in all, a decent film, but one that would have been better served with better effects, larger budget, and one or two more "name" stars. 
But YMMV. I am just used to movies of this type that go heavy on effects. This film was far more concerned with relationships--husband: wife, parents: child, father-in-law: son-in-law and how we all will face our inevitable end.
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