Directed by Ric Roman Waugh.
Starring Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd and Scott Glenn.
John (Gerard Butler) and Alison (Morena Baccarin) Garrity need to make it to safety with their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). Their journey is only the start.
A lack of alpha male behaviour from Gerard Butler instantly makes Greenland impressive. This toned down, dramatically nuanced new man is not holding all the answers, is not indestructible and feels vulnerable. In almost every film on his illustrious resume this Scottish John McClane holds all the cards. Bullets, bullies and bad guys be damned the Gerard Butler audiences know and love can stare down natural disasters, hold back rampant extremists and save his unfeasibly attractive family. This is the marquee persona which has turned him into the largest Highland export since Sean Connery or Famous Grouse.
However, as much as his wife, life and young son remain picture perfect on the surface Greenland introduces some welcome flaws. Morena Baccarin brings a resourceful and determined edge to his wife Alison, who seems more than capable of living without him. This means that Gerard Butler’s John Garrity is perpetually on the backfoot throughout. Walking on eggshells in the early stages of marital reconciliation and then scrambling for answers once events really kick off.
What director Ric Roman Waugh does by approaching things from this direction is ground everything. As much as this might be a disaster movie with carefully orchestrated build up, things start slow and character comes first. That it morphs from family drama to road trip narrative without resorting to cliché also pays dividends.
Tonally it lifts a little bit from World War Z and possesses the claustrophobic overtones of Cloverfield. Over its running time Greenland taps into the paranoia of uncertainty which is prevalent throughout America right now. Political uncertainty, individual freedom and fractured democratic process now define a nation in free fall. Fear and misinformation are fanning the flames of anarchy and things are reaching a tipping point.
Set pieces are cleverly orchestrated while plausibility is maintained through a genuine emotional commitment from the principle players. In the latter stages when a perpetually grizzled Scott Glenn arrives, events take a more serious turn. His presence adds a degree of gravitas which only forces other cast member to up their game. Emotionally the core of this film exists in these moments between three generations, where responsibility and acceptance meet for a brief moment.
Greenland also expands on that idea through a judicious use of flashback in a finale which wrongfoots, emotionally compromises and then subtlety surprises its audience. In the final reel Ric Roman Waugh jettisons grounded reality for cautious optimism. Every victory up to that point has been hard won and feels justified. In a muted visual moment of wasteland serenity Greenland comes into its own, ensuring that resurrection through mutual communication backs up the message of renewal.
People are not only talking, but more importantly beginning to listen. A point which might seem heavy handed given the current global situation, but nonetheless one which feels necessary right now. That our Scottish action man has chosen to become a universal everyman and change the game is just a bonus.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★