THE STORY – U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.
THE CAST – Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan & Elisabeth Shue
THE TEAM – Aaron Schneider (Director) & Tom Hanks (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes
By Will Mavity
We live in a wild world in which the “mid-budget adult drama,” once the bread and butter of cinema, has become something of a rarity. These movies, the “Ford vs Ferrari’s” and “Bridge of Spies” of the world tend to eschew action-heavy CGI spectacle that populates most new studio releases nowadays in favor of a simple, crowd-pleasing story and emphasis on character, but with a budget sufficient to tell that story on a grander scale than a ten million dollar indie. The work in these films is rarely as complex as that on display in some of the more innovative, low budget indie and art house films, but also tends to be more accessible to audiences who crave something more substantial than the latest blockbuster fodder. It’s a type of storytelling that has largely migrated to TV. As such, a film like “Greyhound,” that in many ways, feels ripped right out of the 90s, somehow feels fresh and unique.
Based on C.S. Forester’s novel, “The Good Shepherd,” “Greyhound” follows a middle-aged military veteran (Tom Hanks) pulled back into service in the early days of WWII and tasked with escorting military troop and supply ships across the Atlantic without air support, while vastly outnumbered by German U-Boats.
The screenplay, penned by Hanks is simple. But, aside from a few bits of clunky dialogue early on, it is effective in conjuring up the mental state of a man driven increasingly crazy by the stress, sleep deprivation, and burdens of navigating unfriendly waters. Time and time again, Hanks’ character is forced to choose between equally unsatisfactory options as he loses the morale and lives of his crew. The film’s morality is old-Hollywood simple: Americans are the good guys, and Hanks is as good as it gets, while the Nazis are facelessly evil, but it doesn’t mean that Hanks’ character faces easy moral decisions. Time and time again he is reminded that his decisions cost lives. Accordingly, Hanks brings a believable world-weariness to the part, showing a more tired and tormented side than we are accustomed to. Unfortunately, Hanks’ script makes sure the film is “the Tom Hanks show” and fails to give any of the supporting cast much room to shine. Only Rob Morgan (“Mudbound”) and a wobbly-accented Stephen Graham (“The Irishman”) make any sort of impact.
Fortunately, Hanks’ character is compelling enough to compensate. Director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) builds an effective sense of dread throughout the proceedings. Wide shots pushing in through slate-gray clouds, and allowing water to splash the camera, while Blake Neely’s ominous score plays in the background are particularly effective. Mike Minkler’s sound design is a standout. His constant “beep beep” of the radar in the background ratchets up the tension, and every bang, whop, crash, and whir of the battle sequences has its own unique sonic identity. Shelly Johnson’s cinematography is claustrophobic while inside the titular vessel, and his exterior shots, aided by seamless CGI during overhead shots and sea battle sequences, are appropriately epic.
Nothing on display in “Greyhound” is anything we haven’t seen before. It is surely not as visceral or game-changing as other Tom Hanks war films like “Saving Private Ryan.” Indeed, the film lacks the emotional heft of even Hanks’ “Bridge of Spies.” Yet, the film’s earnestness and commitment to delivering a simple, well-told story is endearing. Like last year’s “Ford v Ferrari,” it is…the ultimate dad movie. Something so old-school and traditional as to somehow become a breath of fresh air. Nothing about it is “must-watch”, but you could do far worse in picking something to stream this weekend.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Excellent technical craftsmanship and a strong Hanks performance. Its old-school nostalgia is refreshing.
THE BAD – It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Supporting characters are barely fleshed out.