The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Amazon Prime Video] - GREENLAND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Amazon Prime Video] - GREENLAND

greenland review
A family attempts to escape the apocalypse by fleeing to Greenland.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Hope Davis

greenland poster

What I've missed most about not being able to visit cinemas for most of the past year isn't the thrill of watching a great movie on the big screen, because a great movie will work no matter where you watch it. No, what I've missed most is the experience of watching mediocre garbage in the cinema. You know what I mean. The sort of movies you know are going to be bad going in, but you don't care because you just want to detach your brain for a couple of hours and chew on rubbery popcorn and guzzle soda while you watch Gerry Butler punch a comet, and you want to share in the joy of a collective groan cascading through the rows of seats as some awful line of dialogue is delivered.

With such modest ambitions in mind, when cinemas briefly reopened with restricted capacity last summer, one of the movies I was most excited to see was Greenland - if ever Gerry Butler was going to punch a comet it's in this one! Alas, it wasn't to be, and director Ric Roman Waugh's disaster movie has quietly crash landed on Amazon, denied the shock-waves its impact might have created had it been given a theatrical release under normal circumstances.

greenland review

The setup for a Roland Emmerich-esque blockbuster is in place here, as a comet is set to pass closer to our planet than any celestial body ever has since the rock that wiped out Barney and friends. It should be a harmless event, and quite the spectacle, but while shopping for hot dogs for a barbecue at the home of his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd), structural engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler) receives a recorded message from the Department of Homeland Security telling him he needs to pack his bags and bring his wife and son to a nearby airport. Turns out the government has been keeping quiet about just how close the comet is brushing against our pale blue dot, with fragments beginning to break away, causing devastation wherever they land.

With a particularly large chunk set to land in Western Europe and destroy most life on our planet, a select few have been chosen to rebuild the world, and are being scuttled off to secret shelters in Greenland. When Nathan is denied entry to the plane due to his diabetes (it's survival of the fittest), the family find themselves separated and set about reuniting at the home of Allison's father (Scott Glenn) before making a break for Canada, where planes are set to embark for Greenland.

greenland review

Despite its apocalyptic premise, Greenland has little in common with the likes of Armageddon, 2012 or the previous Gerry Butler vs nature romp Geostorm. It's a relatively intimate survival thriller, which save for a silly sequence in which Butler drives through a meteor storm, plays its drama with a straight face. Essentially it's Miracle Mile, but rather than having to race across a city to board a flight to safety, John and co. are rushing across a continent.

As is often the case with movies about impending catastrophes, the impending is more intriguing than the catastrophe. The buildup is quite effective, mining increasing tension from the scenario, and when the family is separated we've developed enough empathy to root for their reunion as they navigate various human horrors. It's when they're forced to contend with the heavenly threat in the second half that Greenland crumbles like a comet entering an unfriendly atmosphere. The movie has done such an effective job of remaining grounded prior to that point that the sight of John dodging falling chunks while various faceless redshirts are flattened by falling debris feels like it belongs in another movie.

greenland review

Greenland gives us the classic trope of the estranged couple forced to work together to contend with something greater than themselves. Of course, we know John and Allison are going to put their differences aside and reunite by the climax, because this a Hollywood movie and despite its liberal pretence, Hollywood ultimately wants to win the dollars of conservative America, where divorce is a dirty word. Oddly enough, John and Allison don't seem all that estranged, so there's a curious lack of conflict between them. Rather than bickering over the best way to survive, they simply agree with every proposal offered. On one hand it's refreshing to see a separated couple portrayed as two people who can maintain cordial relations, but on the other, it just doesn't make for compelling drama.

A similar misstep is the casting of Butler. The character of John is very much an out of his depth everyman, so it's odd to see him played by someone we associate with saving the world (or at least the President). This saps the tension out of some scenes, as we expect Butler to be able to handle himself. While he does his best, Butler doesn't have the ability of Tom Cruise to make us forget about his prior roles when he takes on a Joe Soap role ala Spielberg's War of the Worlds, a movie Greenland often feels like a poor cousin to.

 is on Amazon Prime Video UK now.

2021 movie reviews