There are moments in life where an event occurs that no one thinks much of. Then, without warning, the world changes. For the characters in “Greenland,” that life-changing event is a comet. Ric Roman Waugh’s film was released on Dec. 18, 2020, in the United States and depicts humanity’s chaotic and violent race to shelter before a “planet-killer” comet fragment wipes out everyone above ground.
The story focuses on John Garrity, played by Gerard Butler, his wife Allison, and their diabetic young son, Nathan, in the days surrounding what should have been a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime event. A comet, dubbed Clarke, is passing closer to Earth than any comet has ever before. Everyone believes it to be merely a fly-by, but things quickly begin to change. First, people are told that fragments would burn up in the atmosphere, then smaller pieces would make it through and finally, one large piece would fall harmlessly into the ocean. As the Garrity family gathers with friends in their Atlanta home to watch the live-streamed impact, they are surprised to see nothing — until a shockwave blows them off their feet. A news update then broadcasts: the predictions were wrong. The meteorite has struck and destroyed Central Florida, and more will come preceding the one massive fragment set to end humanity’s days in 48 hours. Because of his work as a structural engineer, John and his family are selected to be among the lucky few brought to safety at an undisclosed location, later found to be old Cold War bunkers beneath Greenland.
“Greenland” isn’t a film that pulls its punches. Twice, newscasters in the movie warn their audiences that they’re about to see disturbing images, and it’s a statement applicable to the rest of the film. While there isn’t much overly graphic violence in the film, the Garritys face no small amount of hardship on their way to Greenland -- and not just from falling debris. John gets separated from Allison and Nathan early on, and each must fend for themselves until they can be reunited at her father’s house. In their way, however, is the dark side of humanity. Violent looters shoot up the store where Allison tries to get desperately needed medicine for Nathan, and the whole family must contend with unselected individuals who fight to steal the Garritys’ passage to safety. Arguably, it is people who pose the greatest threat in the film rather than the falling comet. The suspense in “Greenland” takes one’s breath away and doesn’t give it back easily.
Despite its tense moments, there are still quieter moments in the film where people’s better sides are able to pierce the darkness. Several times, the Garritys receive help while travelling to Greenland. For the most part, these are simple acts of kindness, but the power in them is greater than that of the comet raining down on Earth. Despite the destruction, some measure of healing is able to take place, too. At the film’s start, John and Allison are still dealing with the painful effects of his unfaithfulness in their marriage. As the film progresses and both have to fight to keep their family together, they are able to reconcile, affirm the love and trust between them and move forward knowing that even if they don’t make it, their family is whole once again. Moments like these ease the stress of the film, providing a fuller view of humanity and a better story altogether.
While “Greenland” may not be the most spectacular film to hit the screen in recent years, it still delivers on the entertainment front, and the Garritys’ familial problems and external threats from society give the film a deep, thought-provoking experience. It is certainly an engaging film, where every hurdle makes one wonder, “Will they be able to make it now?” Fast-paced and hair-raising, “Greenland” is a film to watch.