Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland

Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland is an uncommonly superb, heartbreakingly intense, strikingly subversive disaster film, the best of its kind in probably decades, to be honest. Usually when I see a Gerard Butler disaster film coming down the pipeline I promptly step to one side and let it pass by without taking notice, like the lame-brained Olympus Has Fallen series or GeoStorm. Let’s face it, the guy’s agent hasn’t been the best at landing decent projects for him, and for a long time too. Let’s hope this is the start of something new in his career because it’s a staggering work that uses its big budget not for flashy, glossy CGI or needlessly elaborate but ultimately hollow blockbuster set pieces. This is a much more intimate disaster flick that uses character, emotion, spacing, nighttime, growing mass hysteria and poignancy to get its point across. Butler plays a Florida structural engineer trying to get his wife (Morena Baccarin) and kid (Roger Dale Floyd) out of Tampa as a disintegrating comet pummels earth with fragments and the countdown to the end of the world begins. The powers that be have a plan to shelter those with good genetics and useable skillsets in fortified bunkers located in Greenland through a selective process using iPhone emergency alerts and Butler’s family has been chosen but there are many elements that make their journey difficult, mainly the widespread chaos and panic as well as the continued decimation of their planet by falling debris. Butler is fantastic here and sells the frenzied desperation well, while Baccarin has never been better and I never would have thought that Deadpool’s girlfriend was capable of such an affecting, raw performance as she gives here. Others give vivid impressions including Hope Davis, Holt McCallany, Madison Johnson, Gary Weeks, Merrin Dungey and many more. Special mention must be made of Scott Glenn as Morena’s father with whom they briefly take shelter with. He brings his usual gritty gravitas and shares a scene with her that brings out the best in both actors and is the film’s emotional lynchpin. The scenes of disaster aren’t obnoxious, grating or show-boaty like many films of this kind; there’s a haunted, celestial quality to the visuals of the descending comet that is both beautiful and terrifying, like ethereal dying stars entering our atmosphere and lighting up our skies in one final display of sustained, painterly cosmic reverence before the inevitable destruction. If Big Hollywood took notes from Waugh and his team on what they’ve achieved here and employed such creative wisdom into all of their disaster films then maybe the genre overall would be taken more seriously because this is one gorgeously produced piece of work that, for me, now sits as the disaster movie gold standard. Great film.

-Nate Hill