Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for the disaster genre of films that peppered the 1970’s. In fact, “The Towering Inferno” turned 46 years old on December 14.
Why is this important to Ric Roman Waugh’s “Greenland,” which hits VOD today?
In a word, the Gerard Butler-starring vehicle fits the framework of such storied grandad-type disaster classics like “The Towering Inferno.” However, it is probably more reminiscent of “Earthquake” coupled with the recent “Deep Impact.”
The primary difference between those classics and “Greenland” is that Chris Sparling’s script intentionally starts with a feeling of apprehension and reluctance in its main character, John Garrity (Butler), a structural engineer. Taking a cue from the recent “Skyscraper,” Sparling injects drama into the family structure as a focal point for the narrative rather than the impending disaster from a series of meteoroids threatening earth.
There’s an interesting level of excitement over the impending event from his son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). Nathan’s innocence really sets a stage for the dramatic threat to impede on their lives, but it also reminds us that no one is immune or safe from this event.
Butler doesn’t force an American English accent in the role, reverting to his native tongue, which was a refreshing change; his Scots brogue brought a humanity, perhaps an urgency to the performance, which kicks off into higher gear when he receives a call to gather his family and a limited number of items to be routed to a haven by the government.
Waugh and Sparling isolate the characters, which also adds an unexpected layer of drama and fleshes out the estrangement and isolation between Garrity and his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin). The story wisely layers in some of the additional dramatic elements as the Garrity’s rush off.
Havoc from the impending disaster surrounds our characters in many ways, introducing familiar situations that propel our characters through their situations. Some might find the rather stark reaction toward the Garrity’s to be blunt; frankly, I wasn’t surprised.
Although the film is thematically centered around Garrity saving the world, or at least that’s the story’s crux, the narrative ultimately veers away from the idea that he needs to save the world when the world really is right in front of his nose.
The standout performance of the film is Scott Glenn as Dale, Allison’s father. There’s a sequence where, after having been separated, the trio meet at Dale’s place in Kentucky. You might be inclined to feel like the status applied to Dale, and his friends goes against the country’s feelings today. It’s perhaps the one moment in the film where there’s a depth of humanity, a glimmer of the films that preceded this one, gifting their legacy on “Greenland.”
One point of interest is that the special effects featured in the film from a company called Pixomondo. While the story inherently defies physics, the Pixomondo team really drove the idea that a shower of meteoroids could decimate the surface as depicted in the film.
“Greenland” feels different enough that I appreciated what it had to say, buoyed by a rather magnetic performance from Butler. It also suffers for the same reasons it is different: it focuses on an isolated unit to propel its story, and when the unit breaks apart, the story can’t balance the drama that caused the action from the action itself.
As a fan of the disaster genre, “Greenland” is Recommended. Though, take this recommendation at your own peril.