A comet is on the verge of wiping out almost all life on Earth. In the middle of this chaos of the impending apocalypse: a family of three, led by Gerard Butler. GREENLAND sounds like the blueprint of standard disaster action cinema – and to a certain extent it is. But in the end it was much better than expected. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Greenland (USA 2020)
A huge comet is racing towards Earth at high speed and is expected to burn up before entering the Earth’s atmosphere, according to calculations. But the forecasts are not correct – a first fragment of the comet does not fall into the sea, but instead destroys all of Florida. Rumors that only a select group of people can be brought to safety are already making the rounds when engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler) is asked by the US government to leave immediately, along with his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) to go to a military base. From there they should be flown to a place where survival should be possible: Greenland. But the journey there turns into a gauntlet and the family is torn apart in the chaos of desperately fleeing people and looting hordes. How will they ever find each other again, and where is anyone even safe anymore?
If distributors postpone the film releases of their projects one or more times shortly before release, then that is usually not a good sign. This circumstance often shows that you either don’t know exactly what to do with the production, or that you even want to “send it out” without much attention, as quietly as possible. In the case of Ric Roman Waugh’s disaster drama “Greenland,” all signs point to exactly this procedure; The second collaboration between him and lead actor Gerard Butler after “Angel Has Fallen”. (“Criminal Squad”) Not only doesn’t seem very promising considering the films the action mime has recently appeared in. The director-actor duo’s first collaboration was just one of various middle- to lower-class Krawumm vehicles in which the Scottish-born artist recently appeared largely disinterested. And the plot of an approaching comet impact, from which a father and his estranged wife and son have to flee, does not win any innovation prizes. But “Greenland” was postponed to October 22nd at such short notice because the cinemas simply asked the film distributor Tobis to do so due to the lack of mass theatrical releases. And the film itself also turns out to be surprising on every level. Butler is finally once again remarkably committed and delivers his best performance since “The Law of Vengeance”. In terms of production, the film is emotional and oppressive at the same time due to its pessimistic tone and the premise of the comet impact is presented here in a much less sensational way than one would expect from many others I’m used to disaster films of this kind.
John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their son Nathan.
Now it’s not as if US blockbuster cinema hadn’t discovered the impending disaster of an approaching comet impact many years ago. In 1998, Mimi Leder’s “Deep Impact” was one of the ten most successful films of the year in United Kingdom – over three million people wanted to see Morgan Freeman, as US President, proclaiming the impending end of the world and Robert Duvall doing everything to avert the disaster. More than 20 years later, Gerard Butler now slips into the role of the protagonist of such a catastrophe, although “Greenland” differs from Butler’s last films in that it can hardly be described as a hero’s role. His John Garrity is, unbeknownst to him, one of the US government’s chosen ones and is therefore authorized to claim one of the rare evacuation spots for himself and his family, but most of the time he and his loved ones are as helpless to fate as anyone else people around them. And the isolated scenes in which his character does things that could sometimes be described as “(action) heroic” (sometimes he selflessly saves a man from a burning car, other times he is forced to resort to a weapon, to defend themselves against an adversary), then seem like a foreign body in an otherwise very down-to-earth and realistically staged film.
“John may be, unbeknownst to him, one of the US government’s chosen ones and therefore authorized to claim one of the rare evacuation slots for himself and his family, but most of the time he and his loved ones are as helpless to fate as anyone else .”
Of course, the fact that the world’s population is currently in a state of pandemic also contributes to the fact that scenes in which we see people looting or in which the health system collapses seem particularly intense; Simply because such events are currently closer to our reality than we are usually used to. But you also get the impression otherwise, screenwriter Chris Sparlig (“Buried” With “Greenland” I didn’t want to satisfy the greed for blockbuster-typical catastrophe spectacle, but instead wanted to tell the individual fate of a completely ordinary family. Some dramaturgical decisions counteract this to some extent. For example, when son Nathan becomes the victim of a kidnapping, or the aforementioned fight between father John and a stranger who is after John’s rescue bracelet. Such scenes would not be necessary as punctual peaks of tension – the basic mood in “Greenland” is oppressive enough for that. Nevertheless, director Ric Roman Waugh always resolves them in a sufficiently down-to-earth way so that he can continually reflect on the strengths of his film. And that he doesn’t make little Nathan a diabetic in order to artificially increase the tension because, for example, the family is running out of medication – this motif is familiar from so many other films of this kind – but because this circumstance will later become another one will have a really dramatic impact on the events, makes the film as a whole significantly stronger than various genre competitors.
Will John and his family survive?
Even the depiction of the comet and its numerous fragments is only just as spectacular as it needs to be to appear threatening. “Greenland” only has a few scenes in which something like an action scenario emerges from falling comet pieces. The interspersed bits of news, footage from eyewitnesses or images of the glowing sky (“The sky burns!”) contribute much more effectively to the pervasive feeling of threat. But most important is cinematographer Dana Gonzales (“Shot Caller”) always very close to the action and therefore at eye level with his disoriented protagonists. Every now and then, given the circumstances, things get a bit blurry – for example, when Gonzales has to make his way through a bustling crowd alongside John. But on the whole, those responsible always strive to provide the necessary overview. Especially in the first half of the film, the gradually increasing tension results from the fact that, on the one hand, the procedure shown in “Greenland” is only too easy to understand, while on the other hand, decisions are made by the government that feel like a punch in the face feel in the pit of your stomach (keyword: chronic illnesses).
“Even the depiction of the comet and its numerous fragments is only as spectacular as it needs to be to appear threatening. “Greenland” only has a few scenes in which something like an action scenario emerges from falling comet fragments.”
The fact that the plot takes the time to deal with the interpersonal relationships of the Garrity family in a genre-consistent manner, so that some story developments are quite predictable, is only of limited importance. Since Gerard Butler and “Deadpool” star Morena Baccarin give their characters enough life, you root for them enough so that even supposedly striking sequences like a grandly celebrated reunion honestly touch your heart.
Conclusion: “Greenland” is a remarkably oppressive disaster drama that doesn’t use the approaching end of the world for over-the-top action escapades, but rather to show as realistically as possible how a completely normal family would live through such a catastrophe scenario.
“Greenland” can be seen in USA cinemas from October 22nd.