Greenland (2020) — Racing against a comet

“My friend Teddy says your life flashes in front of your eyes when you die. I think it would be better if it did that while you lived. That way, you could see all the good memories and be happy.”

Justin’s rating: I always knew Haley’s Comet was out to get us. I just knew it.

Justin’s review: In the past year or two, I’ve been on a bit of a meteor apocalypse kick. I’ve read books about the end of the world via giant rock (Ben Winter’s Last Policeman series is terrific) and gravitated toward movies that tackle the abrupt and smashy end of the world (These Final Hours is most definitely on my list to see soon). And if I’m in the market for a no-nonsense thrill ride in the same vein, Greenland does the trick.

Just weeks ago, humanity picked up visuals of a gigantic comet called Clarke that is scheduled to fly by harmlessly while putting on a huge show with its fragments skidding along the atmosphere. Everyone treats it as if it’s a giant party — that is until huge fragments start bombing the crud out of the landscape and the word comes down that Clarke isn’t going to miss the world but hit it dead-on. At the same time, John Garrity (Gerard Butler, doing his best scruffy Mel Gibson impersonation) gets a phone call from DHS saying that he and his wife are scheduled for evacuation.

What ensues is a tension-filled hour-and-a-half as a world scrambles to grapple with the imminent apocalypse. There’s no time here to really ruminate about what the apocalypse means or how people will cope with it in these final hours; it’s just a whole lot of driving, running, families getting separated, people screaming, cell phones not working, and plenty of CGI comet fragments smashing the crud out of the world.

The whole goal is to get to safety — to Greenland — where an underground bunker allegedly will keep a select group of people safe through the planet-killer event. Personally, I would’ve liked to seen this disaster scenario play out at a high level, at what people in the government and disaster agencies would do to try to save humanity with this short of a time table, but what we get is mostly located on a three-person family, which includes Butler and Firefly’s Morena Baccarin.

So here’s the weird thing: I do love me some end-of-the-world scenarios, but I also hate when it’s so tense that I’m squirming. Greenland certainly pushes a lot of buttons for me, such as protecting one’s family in the midst of imminent danger. I wanted to keep watching to see the scenario, but I was anxious for it to be over. That’s a me thing, but I thought it worth sharing.

I did absolutely love when the movie showed us people being genuinely nice and helpful, which is quite rare for disaster movies. I mean, that’s one of the big questions, isn’t it? If the world was going to end and you didn’t have a chance of surviving it, how would you act? Apocalyptic movies would like us to think that 100% of us would be murderous cannibals by minute two. Greenland says, maybe we wouldn’t. I like that.

In a non-COVID year, Greenland might have been a decently performing late-summer blockbuster. I could see that happening. I think it did OK enough, but it probably didn’t have the (ahem) impact that it would’ve otherwise. It may have well been one of the underrated films out of the very few that actually came out in 2020. We’ll see if it has legs on streaming and rentals in the future, and I sincerely hope it does.

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