Following the real-life disaster that was 2020, are we really ready for a Gerard Butler disaster movie featuring a comet that is threatening to wipe out all of humanity? Well, Greenland certainly does prove to be a pretty intense two-hour watch, so much so that when I turned over to watch the 10 o’clock news afterwards, I actually felt a sense of relief that it was just the pandemic and the usual set of human disasters that we currently have to worry about!
Gerard Butler is John Garrity, a structural engineer currently going through some marriage problems with wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and together they have a 7-year old son called Nathan. The TV news channels are all reporting on a comet that’s heading towards Earth, but there’s no real cause for concern as it is actually just a collection of rock fragments that are expected to either burn up on entry into our atmosphere or cause minimal damage if they do actually hit Earth. The whole thing is getting a lot of coverage, but is being treated so casually that they’ve even given the comet a name – “Clarke”. There’s an uneasy feeling in the air though (obviously for us, this is supposed to be a disaster movie after all!), with the comet visible in the daylight sky and groups of military planes flying overhead. It’s that sensation of trying to continue a normal daily life with so much uncertainty in the air, something that we were all too familiar with throughout 2020.
While out shopping with his son, John receives a Presidential Alert on his phone from the Department of Homeland Security, instructing him and his family to drive to a nearby airbase. But as he looks around at other customers in the supermarket, nobody else appears to have got one. Back home, and a group of neighbours have joined the Garrity’s for a barbecue and to watch the latest news coverage of a medium-sized piece of Clarke that is set to land safely in the ocean off the coast of Florida. Only the fragment doesn’t hit the ocean at all, engulfing Tampa in a blanket of fire as it hits land and causing a shockwave that can be felt up to 1500km away. Again, John receives a Presidential Alert on his phone, as well as on his smart TV for all the neighbours to see. None of them has received the alert and there’s a sudden realisation that Clarke may be a little bit more cause for concern than the government initially let on.
It’s just as the Garrity’s are heading off in their car that the news breaks regarding the severity of the incoming comet, and chaos quickly ensues. It transpires that a rather large chunk of the comet, approximately 9 miles wide, is actually set to hit somewhere in Europe in 48 hours time. And this time, we’re looking at an E.L.E (Extinction Level Event), the kind that ruined the dinosaurs day some 66 million years ago. John and his family have been chosen to travel to a nearby airbase where they and other select civilians deemed important enough to help restart the human race will board a military plane before being transported to a shelter at a classified location. But following a series of unfortunate, and very stressful, events, John and his family become separated. They miss their plane and find themselves having to undertake the very difficult task of trying to find each other in the midst of global panic. And we’re only 30 minutes into the movie at this point!
As the two parents attempt to reunite, with cell phone service unavailable and with each of them having to hitch a ride with one or more fleeing citizens, Greenland becomes a road movie. Once again drawing parallels with 2020, the impending comet strike manages to bring out the very worst in people, with stores being looted, crimes against others committed and the motives of those who are driving you cannot be trusted either. The twists and complications continue to pile up but somehow the family manages to find each other. A temporary sigh of relief…
If you’re of a certain age, you may recall the much more lighthearted portrayals of asteroid destruction in movies such as “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” – effects-heavy devastation and Bruce Willis saving the world. In Greenland, while the effects are certainly there, they’re used sparingly and it’s a far bleaker movie than any of those predecessors. Possibly buoyed on by the events of 2020, Greenland feels as though it has gone to great lengths to make the end of the world that much more believable. The lack of spectacle at times, accompanied by all of the human chaos portrayed, just feels like something that could so easily appear right now as part of our news headlines. And you probably wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did either.
Greenland is available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video from February 5th
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.