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'Greenland': Movie Review

Movieguide Magazine


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GREENLAND is a thrilling, gripping, heart-stirring disaster movie about a family trying to survive a comet hitting Earth, including large and small chucks of comet debris raining down on people and cities. Despite some credibility issues, GREENLAND is compelling moviemaking from start to finish and has many exciting, extremely touching pro-family, redemptive and even Christian moments, but there’s too much foul language and, of course, the disaster scenes are pretty intense and often scary.

As the movie opens, John Garrity, chief engineer on a skyscraper under construction in Atlanta, leaves his job site early so he can visit his son, Nathan, at his ex-wife, Allison’s, house in the suburbs. John is also helping with the preparations for a birthday party for Nathan that many folks in the neighborhood will attend. Nathan is excited about the news of a previously unknown comet that’s supposed to fly near Earth without hitting it. There is clearly still some tension between John and Allison because of their divorce. They make the best of things for their son, however, and John sleeps in the guest room.

The next day, just before the party, Allison asks John to run to the store with Nathan to get more beer and wine for the adults. At the store, John gets a presidential alert on his cellphone that he and his family need to immediately go to a nearby Air Force Base for safety. Apparently, the approaching comet is more dangerous than the public’s been told. The alert tells John they can’t bring anyone else. If they do, that person will be turned away. The alert says they can only bring one bag.

John and Nathan get home. The guests are already in the family room watching news about the comet. As they’re all watching a large chunk of debris hits Central Florida and causes a minor shockwave in Atlanta. Just then, John gets another presidential alert ordering him to move his family right away to the local Air Force base. Of course, John and Allison’s neighborhood friends wonder why John’s family was chosen and not theirs. John surmises it has something to do with his engineering expertise.

John and Allison pack three bags, one for each of them. Nathan has an insulin pump because he has Type 1 Diabetes. So, they pack that too. On the way out of the neighborhood, a distraught woman urges them to take her daughter too, but John reluctantly refuses. What do we do with her daughter if they won’t let her daughter onto the base? he asks.

John, Allison and Nathan arrive at the Air Force base. At the base, they find out several huge cargo planes are being loaded with people. The people will be taken to a large secret underground bunker. John and his family are given plastic bracelets by guards checking their identities. To their horror, John and Allison discover Nathan’s insulin medicine fell out of the bag in the car when he took out a blanket. John tells her to get Nathan on the plane while he returns to the car to get the medicine.

Inside the hangar next to the planes, Allison tells a guard her husband had to return to the car to get Nathan’s insulin medicine. The guard informs her that’s too bad, because Nathan’s diabetes disqualifies him from getting on the plane. Well, I’m not getting on the plane without him, she says. Allison decides to go back outside to find John and tell him the bad news.

Meanwhile, John runs back to the base with the insulin medicine. He thinks Allison and Nathan are on the cargo plane, but when he gets on the plane, they’re not there. When John mentions the insulin medicine, a guard informs him they don’t let people with serious medical conditions onto the planes. The soldiers on the plane let him out, but just at that moment, crowds of people without badges storm the base. Some of them have guns and start shooting the soldiers trying to stop them. As John starts to run off the base, a soldier putting gasoline into his plane is shot and the gasoline starts spilling onto the tarmac. The gasoline soon catches on fire and a big explosion takes out at least two of the cargo planes.

John makes it back to his car, which is totally blocked by other abandoned vehicles. On the windshield, he finds a note from Allison that she and Nathan are headed to her father’s place in Lexington, Kentucky. John starts to head there to meet up with them. Soon, they hitch separate rides. John’s ride is a truck full of people. The driver says they’re heading to Osgood, Canada just across the border, where there’s a small airport with planes taking people to the secret underground base in Greenland where the government is transferring important people. The news about the base and its location have been leaked, he tells John.

Both John and Allison encounter violent people on both their rides. They also learn that the comet’s biggest piece of debris is expected to hit Western Europe in 48 hours or so, creating an extinction level event that will kill most of the people on Earth. Will they make it to Lexington? If they do, can they get to Greenland in time to survive the Comet Apocalypse?

The script to GREENLAND places many exciting obstacles in the way of its middle class family and their survival. As a result, the movie is constantly intense and riveting. The script relieves the tension by providing more than its share of emotional highlights where the characters overcome dangerous obstacles and show great love for one another. That said, some of the situations, events and details in GREENLAND create some possible credibility issues. For example, some of the behavior of the people John and Allison encounter raises more questions than answers. Also, the plane that takes John, Allison and Nathan apparently only has a range of 900 miles, but it’s more than 1200 miles from Canada to the southern part of Greenland. Such things may bother some people more than others. However, the movie makes John and Allison, and their efforts to protect Nathan, stay together and survive the story’s central focus point. This focus, coupled with the solid performances by Gerard Butler and Moreno Baccarin, makes up for any credibility issues the movie may have. Of course, in a situation like that depicted in the movie, the motivations of people, especially the evil antagonists, will never be totally rational, and may even be pretty crazy. So, to demand that everything in a movie make perfect sense seems misplaced. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

By focusing on the survival of one family in a chaotic world, GREENLAND has a very strong morally uplifting worldview. It also has a couple touching, overt Christian references. For instance, at one point, John passes a Baptist church where people are inside the church singing Amazing Grace. In another, even more powerful, scene, John and Allison ask Allison’s father to come with them to Greenland. He reminds them that, when she died, Allison’s mother went to be with the Lord in Heaven while living on his farm, and he expects to do the same thing, whether he dies the next day or 10 years from now. GREENLAND could well have used one or two more scenes of faith like this, but the scene with the grandfather is so poignant and so well delivered by Scott Glenn (THE RIGHT STUFF and SILVERADO) that it’s better than five such scenes in many other movies with faith.

Sadly, though, GREENLAND contains too much foul language, including nine strong, gratuitous profanities. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong caution. It should also be noted that the violence and comet destruction in GREENLAND is rather intense and sometimes even scary, especially for younger viewers.

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About The Author

MOVIEGUIDE® was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ted Baehr, past president of the Episcopal Radio & Television Foundation and former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York. MOVIEGUIDE® is affiliated with the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC). Both MOVIEGUIDE® and CFTVC are dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and artists and by informing and educating the public about the influence of the entertainment media and about how to train their families to become