Up until recently the true disaster movie, the one where the whole world was in jeopardy and there was very little anyone could do about it was a series of features monopolised by filmmaker Roland Emmerich, especially in the 90s and early 2000s and while in recent years he has stepped away, putting his popcorn action artistic style to better use with films such as White House Down and Midway, it has left a big hole in terms of big budget destruction. The over the top visuals of 2012 and Independence Day: Resurgence while completely unbelievable had impressive charm and bravado in spades. While the occasional low budget feature has come along seeking to make serious drama out of such a cataclysm, director Ric Roman Waugh brings some Emmerich gravitas to his world ending epic while trying to balance that with a story darker in tone. For the most part Greenland is everything it sets out to be and more.
Unlike Waugh’s prior feature, the sluggish Angel Has Fallen, Greenland is a never ending sequence of perpetually heightened fear and tension as fractured family patriarch John (Gerard Butler), along with his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) try to make it to relative safety when a state of emergency is called as a comet threatens to wipe out all of mankind. While outlandish, Waugh’s film feels believable thanks to the judicious use of the films budget, here using CGI sparingly to tell an inherently grounded story of human decisions. Emotionally exhausting while never losing the sense of Emmerich inspired fun that makes this genre so undeniably entertaining, Greenland proves to be Butler’s best role in years, one that is supported by an equally impressive Baccarin. A lightly layered script by Chris Sparling also speaks to the inherent good of people in a film that usually seems intent on demonising instead of uplifting and while light on big character moments, at two hours long, Greenland feels shorter, a rapid chase to avoid destruction by leaning on the strength of a well constructed and complex family unit. Ultimately what I’m trying to say is while Greenland is about a disaster, this film is anything but.