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Review: Greyhound

April 24, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

2021 Academy Award nominee for Best Sound

Tom Hanks stars in the stripped down World War II naval thriller Greyhound as Commander Ernest Krause of the US Navy who, on his first war-time assignment, is sent to protect a convoy of 37 Allied ships during the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in WWII.

The film is set in 1942, mere months after the United States joined the war effort, and unfolds almost entirely aboard the USS Keeling, a destroyer whose radio call sign “Greyhound” gives the movie its title. Over the course of several days, Krause must heroically and strategically protect his ship from the German U-boats circling underneath, and safely steer the international convoy of merchant ships that he is leading to Liverpool.

Directed by Aaron Schneider, who won an Oscar for his 2003 WWII short film Two Soldiers, Greyhound does a fine job of recreating this particular attack, and that’s pretty much all it does. The film’s lean, economical approach is almost admirable, but it feels a little too pared back from a storytelling perspective. The film has little in the way of character development, and not even much of a first act, aside from an expository scene at the beginning between Krause and his wife (Elisabeth Shue) before he sets out.

While this approach allows us to get onto the boat as quickly as possible, it also makes the narrative feel somewhat overly simplistic, and prevents us from forming a deeper connection to the characters. The film is barely ninety minutes including credits, and it feels short, playing out more like a single episode of a mini-series. It’s about the length of one, too. We easily could have spent some more time building up tension and getting to know these men before the action kicks in.

The script, which Hanks wrote himself and adapted from C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd, is very detailed in terms of how technical the language is, with much of the dialogue consisting of naval commands being shouted out. But it feels underwritten in terms of defining its characters. With that said, Hanks is a solid presence onscreen throughout Greyhound, doing a good job of guiding us along even as the film around him feels slightly lacking. The actor, whose career has been defined by portrayals of calm heroes quietly doing the right thing in the face of danger, carries the film with the sort of steady, patient performance that he has come to be known for.

While his character is thinly written, Hanks is able to provide a few shades of nuance through his facial expressions, a testament to his talents as an actor. The film’s greatest strength is in making us feel like we are on the boat with these men, a feat that is achieved through its strong visual effects and Oscar-nominated sound work, with the sounds of bombs going off and submarines exploding underwater ringing in our ears. It somewhat crucially lacks the stronger characterizations that define some of the best film’s of the genre, but Greyhound is still a decent enough WWII thriller that delivers in terms of solid technical elements and almost non-stop action.

Greyhound is now available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+.

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