Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Hope Davis, Andrew Byron Bachelor, Merrin Dungey, Holt McCallany
Written by: Chris Sparling
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of disaster action, some violence, bloody images and brief strong language
Running Time: 119
Date: 12/18/2020

Greenland (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Comet Tale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An uncommonly good, absolutely harrowing disaster movie, Greenland elevates the stakes with its effective suggestion of international crisis, and with its personal touches on social status and martial discord.

Structural engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler) lives with his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and their diabetic son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). While trying to work out their troubles, the couple throws a party to watch the arrival of a comet. Unfortunately, the comet is not as harmless as expected, and it begins to cause widespread destruction.

John receives a phone call telling him he has been selected to bring his family to a shelter. Alarmingly, none of his neighbors receive the same call. Upon arriving at the airport, they discover that Nathan's insulin is missing, and when John goes back for it, the family is separated. Allison manages to leave a message for John telling him to meet her at her father's house. Thus begins a harrowing journey across a dangerous landscape with time running out.

Stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh, who previously worked with Butler on Angel Has Fallen, casts the burly leading man in a different light in Greenland. John Garrity has made a mistake, and seeks redemption and forgiveness from his wife. He looks at her, full of pain and regret, and knows he must do anything he can to earn her love back. After the comet hits, when he is asked to go above and beyond, his actions have a deeper meaning.

The clever idea of only certain citizens being selected carries a great weight as well, creating instant animosity and guilt among the characters, and creating more conflict as the heroes' wristbands make them targets. As a thriller, Greenland absolutely delivers the tension and thrills, with huge visual effects and plenty of intense, dangerous spots that forgo the usual cheesiness that disaster movies usually have.

But none of it would have worked without the thought that went into the characters and their connections with one another. Extra credit goes to Scott Glenn as Allison's father, combining gruffness and tenderness in a tremendously moving way.

Universal's 2021 Blu-ray release features an impressive lossless DTS-HD 7.1 audio track, and a mostly excellent video transfer. It also comes with a digital copy and a bonus DVD. Extras include a commentary track by director Ric Roman Waugh and producer Basil Iwanyk, descriptive audio and subtitles, about 5 minutes of deleted scenes, and a very short EPK-style featurette. This is an unusually good disaster flick, and one of the more appropriate movies of the 2020 pandemic.

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