(SPOILERS) Global terror porn for overpopulation adherents as Gerard Butler and his family do their darnedest to reach the safety of a bunker in the titular country in the face of an imminent comet impact. Basically, what if 2012 were played straight? These things come to test cinemas in cycles, of course. Sean Connery struggled with a duff rug and a stack of mud in Meteor, while Deep Impact plumbed for another dread comet and Armageddon an asteroid. The former, owing to the combined forces of Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, was a – relatively – more meditative fare. The latter was directed by Michael Bay. And then there’s Roland Emmerich, who having hoisted a big freeze on us in The Day After Tomorrow then wreaked a relatively original source of devastation in the form of 2012’s overheating Earth’s core. Greenland, meanwhile, is pretty much what you’d expect from the director of Angel Has Fallen.
Which isn’t to say it’s terrible. Not at all. But’s Greenland’s grim and grimy, moving breathlessly from desperate situation to desperate situation and only pausing for breath when Scott Glenn makes a welcome appearance. Brian Aldiss discussed the “cosy catastrophe” concept of apocalyptic fiction in Trillion Year Spree, whereby survivors are able to live something of their prior existence despite mass death and carnage all around. He was pointing the finger at John Wyndham, but there’s something of this here too, with its end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario that allows for a family unit to persevere and start afresh. I suppose there was a vague chance that Butler’s John Garrity (wisely retaining his Scottish brogue) wouldn’t make it, sacrificing himself for his nearest and dearest, but there was absolutely no doubt estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd, very good) were going to thrive on their obligingly depopulated planet. See also 2012 for global devastation proving a pronounced positive when it comes to mending intimate relationships.
Indeed, I did rather think it would have been a nice twist if they’d all stayed on with Allison’s dad Dale (Glenn) in rural Kentucky. It seems like it’s the only point at which Greenland lets the sunshine in, and Dale’s stoic acceptance of his demise – “Of course I will. Today. Tomorrow. Ten years from now. Don’t make no difference to me” – would likely have made Rubin and Tolkin proud.
I have to admit, the premise that those selected for survival – John’s a vital structural engineer – would only be told at the last minute seemed a little unlikely, but I presume screenwriter Chris Sparling was thinking on the basis of “loose lips” and all that. In the unlikely event of an extra-terrestrial object impacting whatever it is we’re all living on, I’m sure the elite are going to be very choosy about any minions and serfs they deign to invite along. Butler seems like just the sort of insubordinate element you wouldn’t want rocking the deep underground boat.
Greenland presents a fairly wrought scope for conflict, as first the Garritys are separated (the old vital meds going amiss trope), and then young Nathan’s diabetes means he is medically prohibited (only the eugenically desirable are permitted in this brave new world). We’ve already had a few encounters with CGI shock waves knocking Gerard off his feet, along with his very ruthlessly refusing to take a neighbour’s child with them. He’s thus ideally poised to stick a hammer in someone’s head when it comes to fending off competition for his prized wristband ticket to safety. Allison meanwhile, gets separated from Nathan on the road and then reunites with him (which seems fairly unlikely, but then, this is a movie presenting FEMA camps as run by friendly people, rather than places they herd you to before the slaughter).
The final chain of events, as the family race to Ontario to catch a private plane to Greenland, moves at the same breakneck pace Waugh has adopted throughout. Which is wise, as you’re disinclined to question the details too much. Such as why, with all the restrictions previously announced as in place, the military should accept these waifs and strays into their bolthole, no questions asked. Maybe because, seeing as hardly anyone lives there, they weren’t going to be deluged by huge throngs. And if they were, they could simply mow them down in a hail of bullets.
In terms of the specifics of this disaster, NASA is helpfully on hand to relay nothing but the facts. So this comet, named after popular alleged paedophile Arthur C Clarke, is “larger than the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs” – notice how that went from a theory to a fact? – and will “destroy most of western Europe”. Has Sparling been consulting deagel.com? Because, after the one thousand-foot waves and nine-hundred-degree surface winds have done their work, only 25 percent of all plant and animal life will be left on Earth.
Deagel forecasts some kind of nuclear holocaust (if you’re into that kind of thing), but notably promises a population reduction of 78 percent in the UK – comparable to most of Europe – and 70 percent in the US by 2025. Which isn’t so far off Sparling’s figures (albeit, other countries actually get a bump in numbers, so don’t go assuming an indiscriminate rock will be responsible). Besides which, who needs a very messy comet when you can solve all your overpopulation problems by convincing your subjects to accept toxic foreign matter into their systems that will, in no time at all, elicit a similar result? Just with less impact on prime real estate. Should you be alarmed about imminent assault from an extinction-level asteroid or meteor, however, you may wish to consider this alternative hypothesis.
Miraculously, family Garrity emerges to a sunny new world after a mere nine months. So just forget about all those messy mouldering billions, because the Garritys are okay. Right? Butler produced this one, and relatively speaking, despite its plandemic-affected box office, it probably counts as one of his biggest hits. It helps that Greenland’s been streaming on Amazon Prime in a number of territories, and disaster is so hot right now. It certainly seems that, when push comes to shove, most of the select few will be quite happy to survive under martial rule. Rather than, you know, take it like a Scott Glenn.