Rated PG-13, 119 minutes
The bleak yet compelling new disaster film "Greenland" is a tense and entertaining look at what happens when destructive, fiery comets start hurtling toward Earth. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh ("Angel Has Fallen") and written by Chris Sparling, it's a pleasant surprise in that it's a disaster film - and a Gerard Butler film for that matter - that isn't a disaster.
John Garrity (Butler), his estranged wife Allison ("Deadpool's" Morena Baccarin) and their young son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) embark on a perilous journey to find sanctuary as a planet-killing comet hurtles toward Earth. As the countdown to the global apocalypse approaches zero, the Garrity's incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.
"Greenland" is a fresh approach to the disaster film genre in that it relies less on special effects and more on acute human emotion and drama surrounding these unpredictable and unstoppable killer comets. The story itself isn't anything new - taking a few cues from films such as "Deep Impact" and to a lesser degree, "Armageddon" - but those bigger-budgeted films were weighed down by either by shoddy writing or excessive special effects (in "Armageddon's" case, both), neither of which happens here.
Sparling's script is grounded and well-acted by Butler and Baccarin, who share genuine chemistry as couple who are chosen via lottery to be among a select few who are sheltered to safety in Greenland. Those blue wristbands of the chosen - which understandably cause considerable issues - become central to the early part of the film, leading to even more death and destruction than the comets.
Waugh could've tightened up a meandering middle act, but it was nice seeing veteran character actor Scott Glenn ("The Leftovers") in a small yet memorable part as Allison's stubborn, cranky father. There are both touching moments and harrowing ones (including a breathless scene on a highway being pummeled with comets) that even out both the human drama and spectacle, with the last 20 minutes an intense, white-knuckle ride.
"Greenland" isn't particularly an uplifting film (the film's title is better than the obvious "Planet Killing Comets") though it makes you think, if this does ever happen, how can I be among those chosen for safety? It might be a tough sell too: a disaster film released during such actual, perilous times, but is still an entertaining escape while in holiday quarantine.