Greenland Theatrical Poster / STX Entertainment
Another in the potential blockbusters that were stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenland hit HBO Max and I got a chance to see the film. Initially, I was not interested in seeing this movie. There has been a procession of movies dealing with global disasters movies and hit or miss impact films. When I heard of this one I was confused and believed that Greenland was just another one of them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this film was much more compelling than its predecessors.
This film follows Gerard Butler as John Garrity a structural engineer from Atlanta, Georgia who is intending to watch the harmless impact of a cometary fragment with his estranged wife, Allison, played by Morena Baccarin, and their diabetic son, Nathan, played by Roger Dale Floyd. The Garrity family is hosting their neighbors in a watch party when John is sent to the store to get more supplies. At the store, he receives a mysterious message from the Department of Homeland Security informing him that he and his family have been selected for an emergency shelter. He rushes home to inform his wife of this message, and once there they assembled party watch as the harmless impact turns deadly as it destroys all of Tampa, Florida. The DHS message now flashes on their TV and the party disperses as many of them believe that they have messages at their homes. The family gathers what they can and flee in the vehicle as their neighbors attempt to convince them to take others with them. While They are refusing to take anyone else they are told that this comet is many fragments that will fall over the next few days and the largest of them will be an extinction-level event.
Once the family arrives at the staging ground for the evacuation to the shelters. John is split from the family as he needs to get the insulin from his now-abandoned car. Allison and Nathan are then informed that they can not travel with Nathan and his selection was a mistake in a rushed selection process. John tries to reconnect with his family but he does not find them. In the confusion of a mob of people attempting to rush onto the military transports, he leaves to find a note by Allison telling her she is heading to her father’s house in Lexington, Kentucky. The two adults, one with the child, now move separately through the end of civilization. Rather than spoil the rest of the film, I will end my plot summary there.
End of Spoilers
Despite being a low-budget film, this move is executed well. Throughout watching the movie I was astonished that this movie was not delayed for a theatrical release. If it was released to a larger audience. I could see this film doing much better at the box office. The cast of the film is delivering with a script that works. As the budget errs to the lighter side, the spectacular CGI-driven action is avoided. When used to show the devastation there is an artistic touch to the widespread destruction. The cinematography is gritty and dark highlighting the loss of civilization that this event has precipitated.
There are problems with the film too. In the story the comet named Clarke is termed an interstellar comet which is the case it would be traveling faster than many objects we track in the solar system. Recently the first interstellar object detected called Oumuamua passed through the solar system moving 26 km/s. If an interstellar object were to hit the Earth at those speeds you would expect that the hit would be singular and it would not extend over two days. The disintegration of a comet based on tidal effects was seen when comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 when it impacted Jupiter in 1994. This effect was the impetus of the multi-day catastrophe that befalls the characters of the film. While not a strictly scientifically accurate film like Deep Impact, it avoided being a schlocky non-sense of Armageddon. The plot itself could have used another pass-through to tighten up the pacing in the first half of the film.
Overall I would recommend this film to the average viewer. It’s an engaging family drama with a global catastrophe in the background. The more scientifically minded may roll their eyes at the depictions of this event, but with the bar for these sorts of films set so low by the likes of directors such as Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, this movie exceeds these other films.