Greenland Movie Review
The first thing you should know about Greenland is that there isn’t much Greenland in Greenland. The second thing you should know is that Greenland is a blast, a fast-paced and surprisingly grounded thriller that serves as the best disaster film since The Wave.
Gerard Butler often gets dismissed--including by me--as a second-rate action star, but when you look back at the last decade of his career, he has cranked out a relatively consistent stream of entertaining action movies, many of which have been global hits (looking at the Fallen franchise). While his faux American accent won’t go down as the most reliable, Butler knows his niche and plays to his strengths.
And Greenland is arguably his best in a long while.
I went into this movie blind, knowing nothing about the film’s plot other than it involved Butler and was presumably some kind of action movie. I was pleased to learn early on that it was about a deadly comet that ravages the planet and much of mankind. With exception to the aforementioned The Wave and its sequel The Quake, the disaster genre hasn’t offered up much in recent years, and certainly not at the scale of Greenland. Unless, of course, you include Geostorm, one of Gerard’s less-good (okay, it’s baaad) movies.
Speaking of scale, what makes Greenland so effective is that while the Earth is under threat, director Ric Roman (Angel Has Fallen) keeps the focus on Gerard and his on-screen family (Morena Baccarin and Roger Dale Floyd). That’s not to say there aren’t explosions and massive fatalities, but Roman seems content in showing the disaster largely through the eyes of this trio, a smart move that allows us to get to know them, understand their dynamic, and set them on a nonstop course for survival. When separated, you can instantly relate to their desperation to reconnect. When the boy (Floyd) is ripped from his mother’s arms, you feel her grief. And when things feel most dire, you hope that they find a way.
The disaster genre rarely is concerned with reality. Roland Emmerich, who has made some of the most popular and memorable disaster films of the last several decades, arguably was his least outlandish with the alien invasion film Independence Day. By the time 2012 rolled around, zero f**ks were given.
Impressively, and not unlike The Wave, Greenland works because it feels grounded. That’s not to say it isn’t farfetched in certain ways, but Roman really avoids any major eye-rolling moments. Further, the film’s depiction of what life would be like in the final days before a worldwide cataclysmic event seems downright believable, from the government’s decision to hide the truth to the military operation to rescue a few lucky individuals. Setting an action-thriller amongst such a situation works effectively as a result.
It should also be noted, and I’m stealing words from a fellow critic, that Roman thankfully didn’t “make the kid annoying.” So many movies that feature children set out to give that child a full arc, often turning them into brave heroes by the end. In this one, Floyd does a terrific job of simply playing a frightened boy who is along for the ride.
Greenland reminds me a lot of 1998’s Deep Impact, a favorite of mine that also took a measured approach to what the end of days may look like. Greenland is a more action-packed version, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a constantly entertaining, exciting, and fully realized disaster film that I surely will revisit in the years to come.
It just needed more Greenland to live up to its title.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.