Published on July 12th, 2020 | by Craig Silliphant0
Greyhound, starring Tom Hanks, is a nail-biting World War II naval battle film that probably could have been great, but instead, comes out merely watchable.
Greyhound is yet another movie that was meant to be released in theatres, but ended up being dropped on Apple+ — they paid a whopping $70 million for it. I assume they’re looking for those Dad subscriptions.
Based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester, the film stars Tom Hanks as a Naval Captain on his first wartime post. He commands a group of warships that are escorting a convoy of 37 merchant ships heading for Liverpool, England that has come under attack from a wolfpack of German subs.
The film is a tight 90-minute run, a mostly thrilling game of cat and mouse. You get a sense of how things work on a ship in 1942, and while it’s good that they don’t slow down to explain every little thing, the details are sometimes a bit difficult to understand. You don’t always catch the nuances, unless you’re overly familiar with WWII Naval terms and protocol, at least for the first 15 minutes or so, until you get into the rhythm of it. But there are some great sequences that keep the adrenaline going. And I mean, it’s not rocket science — boats attacking boats, right?
The production design looks great and you get a sense of what the ship feels like, achieving a Das Boot-style of claustrophobia at points. But the CGI is often less than stellar. Much like CGI blood, which looks ridiculous when you replace a proper squib, CGI waves look pretty silly. The movie is murky and dark in many spots, which I assume is on purpose. It did add to the despair and claustrophobia, but it didn’t help the clarity of the story.
The lack of character development didn’t help either. I can respect a movie that tries to give you an immersive experience over all else — like, presenting what a prolonged battle would feel like. And casting Tom Hanks was a brilliant stroke — he is one of those everyman actors that can bring depth to a role that is underwritten (it’s worth noting that Hanks also wrote the screenplay). While Hanks does a great job of bringing gravitas and holding things together, and the movie does a fairly respectable job of that immersive experience, it would have been stronger with more depth of character. (Like, his character is, uh, that he loves Elizabeth Shue? I mean, we all love Elizabeth Shue, it’s not really a character trait). Even something like Dunkirk (which does have its flaws too) has those character moments that give you higher stakes.
Anyone who knows me knows I appreciate a lean, mean running time with little fat on things. Too much fat makes it bloated and chewy. But sometimes fat is flavour. Or rather, instead of a bunch of fat, maybe the characterization in a film is the marbling on a good steak.
Sorry, I have no idea why I’m suddenly diving into a weird steak metaphor. Maybe I’m hungry. But you get what I mean.
At any rate, without that marbling, Greyhound comes off feeling a lot like the filmed transcription of a battle. It’s frequently nail-biting in spite of its flaws, but there’s not much else to grab onto. So, it’s a fun watch, but unless you’re a naval battle aficionado, you’re probably not going to feel the need to revisit Greyhound anytime soon.