The end of the world hits close to home in apocalyptic movie Greenland
Image source: Medium (top left), IMDb (top right and below)
Now that cinemas are open again, I recently got the chance to catch Greenland on the big screen. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh and starring Gerard Butler, the film follows a family of three’s plight to survive as an impending comet is bound to hit Earth, destroying close to half of its population.
Greenland builds up the usual sense of suspense found in apocalyptic films, minus the supernatural tropes of zombies, or alien invasions like Avengers: Endgame. Unlike movies of this same genre, some characters had also been specially chosen to be evacuated, sparing them from death.
Watching such a realistically portrayed end-of-the-world scenario, the film hit much too close to home. The different challenges faced by the characters aren’t a far cry from what many are going through today. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit nations and claimed many lives. Not to mention the recent Beirut explosions that have left many homeless and hopeless.
The movie was a wake-up call for me to see how the end of the world may not be entirely too far away.
Some may think such far-fetched scenarios will never happen, but the truth is that the Bible has already talked about the end times.
The word “apocalypse” itself comes from the Greek word apokálupsis which means “revelation”, or literally translates to “uncovering”. While apocalyptic films are often stressful, the biblical apocalypse is actually about revealing the beginning of the new world.
The Bible Project beautifully describes how an apocalypse can give us a “heavenly perspective” on our earthly circumstance, so that we can be challenged, comforted and given hope for the future.
While Greenland doesn’t depict a biblical apocalypse and I’m no expert on end-times literature, there were several moments during the film that led me to reflect more deeply about how I can live while keeping the end in mind.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
1. BE PREPARED
One thing that struck me was how everyone had already known about the impending comet fragment. Unlike other apocalyptic films where the disaster hits unexpectedly, there was time given to the people to prepare themselves. Yet what was off-putting was how everyone continued on as per normal despite the rather alarming news.
There were several warning signs of the comet’s crash, such as snippets of news reports on the radio or television being shown. But every sign was ignored by the film’s protagonist John Garrity, who is played by Butler (King Leonidas in 300).
When John’s son, Nathan, shared how his teacher talked about the comet in school, John remained sceptical: He told Nathan that none of these things were true – that there was no comet and everything would be fine.
After dismissing all the signs, including hordes of military jets flying in the sky, John and his family continued on with life and went on to enjoy a party in their own home with friends and neighbours.
But their party was interrupted when the first wave of comet fragments landed nearby, causing the windows of their house to shatter, leaving everyone confused and shocked.
Watching this reminded me of what the Bible has revealed about the end times. Although we may never know the day and hour, we know that Jesus is coming again (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17:20-37).
While I’m guilty of often not paying much attention to the signs Jesus talks about, the film reminded me that I should be prepared. Otherwise, the end might come and catch me completely off guard. In fact, this sounds like what happened to John and his family:
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27)
John seemed to have the right priorities on his mind, such as his love for his job, and his desire to make his marriage work and to be a good father. But he was slow to action. If he had taken the signs more seriously, I’m sure he would have been more desperate in making every second count.
One way I can do this in my own life is to pray and ask God: How do I make today count for Christ?
Personally, I’m also thinking of what it means to stop hesitating to do the work of Christ and putting off the difficult tasks that matter, such as reconciling broken relationships, loving those who are hard to love and serving my neighbours in need.
2. NOT EVERYONE GETS SAVED
One key aspect of the film is that John and his family had been chosen to be specially evacuated by the US military.
John received a Presidential alert – an automated phone call – that told him he and his family had been selected to be evacuated by military planes to a bunker in Greenland. He was given a time and location, instructions on what to do, as well as a specialised QR code to identify his family.
As John and his family drive off, the very same neighbours whom they were just having a party with are all left behind. One even jumps in front of their car to beg them to take her daughter with them, only to be refused by John because he knew she’d be turned away at the gates of the military airbase.
Some may think John’s decision was too cold, but it reminded me of the reality that when the end times come, not everyone will be able to enter into God’s kingdom.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)
As the movie progressed, we see how even among those who were selected for evacuation, there were still people who were eventually turned away at the airbase, including John’s son.
No matter how much John and his wife pleaded, Nathan was still rejected because he suffered from diabetes and required a daily dose of insulin injections. This news was devastating for the family.
While Nathan was rejected for his illness, the Bible talks about how people will be turned away for their sinfulness and unrepentance when the Day of Judgement comes.
But God showed us grace when He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be worthy to enter into God’s presence. Jesus is the gate (John 10:9) that man can enter through and be saved.
Unlike Nathan who had no control over his outcome, we have a choice whether we want to accept Jesus into our hearts.
The pain of being separated from loved ones, and the clear divide between those who were selected and those who weren’t, should also urge us to share the Good News of salvation with others.
3. YOU CAN STILL RESPOND IN LOVE
Another aspect of the film that stood out to me was how the family could not have survived and reached Greenland without the help of others.
The usual trope of apocalypse films normally shows the protagonist surviving through their own wit and grit. But in Greenland, John, his wife and son overcame every obstacle because of the kindness of others.
When Nathan had been kidnapped by a couple who desperately wanted his bracelet that would entitle him to be evacuated, it was a military man who stepped in. In fact, so many people continued to help others evacuate despite not having been elected themselves.
Although there were scenes of looting and chaos, it was a comforting sight that the movie also highlighted moments of selflessness. This made me reflect on what my attitude and response would be in the end times.
In fact, with the world so filled with just as much chaos, I should be asking myself: What would be my response to the things happening around me now? Would we respond in selfishness or love in a time of uncertainty and panic?
I hope that we would continue to choose to respond in love for it is those who love others that have been described as the sheep who stand at the right hand of the Father as opposed to the goats (Matthew 25:33-39).
The film ends with a scene of John and his family exiting the military bunk in Greenland after the comet had hit the ground. As the bunk doors open, a devastating scene reveals the once-lush green landscapes now reduced to black ash, similar to what Revelation 8:7 describes.
Yet despite the destruction, two birds flutter in chirpy unison across the view, reminiscent of the dove returning to Noah’s ark with a freshly plucked olive leaf (Genesis 8:11). Symbolising that there is hope even after such a great disaster, we too as Christians can cling onto God, knowing that He is faithful in keeping His promises.
As the final book of the Bible, Revelation concludes with God’s promise of Jesus’ return (Revelation 22:20), along with a new heaven and new earth where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21).
The apocalypse may reveal much disaster, death and devastation, but it is also a reminder of God’s promises. That alone should encourage us to remain faithful until the King returns.
THINK + TALK
- Does thinking about the end of the world fill you with fear or hope?
- If you knew there was only one way in which you could be saved from death, would you live your life any differently?
- How can you make your life count?