Directed by Aaron Schneider.
Starring Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Lee Norris, Karl Glusman, Tom Brittney, Alex Kramer, Rob Morgan, Devin Druid, and Elisabeth Shue.
Early in World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.
On one hand, Greyhound provides serviceable World War II-set naval action thrills with paper-thin story and characters. On the other hand, it’s admirable how Tom Hanks (as both the star and screenwriter adapting C.S. Forester’s novel) is able to breathe life into his own character, whether it be from heavy decision-making during the heat of battle or his nuanced refusal to scarf down a quick meal once chaos has momentarily subsided. As longtime Navy commander Ernie Krause, Tom Hanks portrays the, at this time, inexperienced ship captain rather calm and collected with both religious ideals and a deep value for human life (even correcting one of his crew that the German U-boat they just sunk didn’t just contain 50 Nazis, but also 50 souls).
The scant running time of 82 minutes without credits be damned, Greyhound does have plenty of minor touching character moments for Ernie Krause, effectively coming across as a one-man show despite the very plot of delivering supplies and protecting a convoy across the Atlantic Ocean (inevitably into a five day stretch without air support) suggesting the importance of teamwork and a collaborative effort. Now, technically that’s here, but something about the direction from Aaron Schneider is off. There are various crew members all doing their part and relaying orders, competently showcasing a chain of command and parts all working in tandem with one another as Ernie Krause makes all of the important choices, yet everyone surrounding him feels lifeless without a dash of personality. Much of the action sequences simply consist of listening to orders and watching everyone react in motion. It’s enlightening seeing these parts cooperate with one another, although it struggles to generate any real intensity.
Smothering the movie in green-screen effects doesn’t exactly do Greyhound any favors. Shots inside the ship or on deck are passable and somewhat believable, but whenever there are sweeping shots of the Atlantic sea, other boats, dark skies, a bleak color palette, and explosions, the film elicits a fake and plastic presentation. Primarily consisting of action, it’s difficult to recommend Greyhound when that action is often disconnecting from the experience, no matter how dedicated Tom Hanks is at both writing and portraying this hero.
Confusingly, the opening few minutes of Greyhound shows Ernie’s love life at a crossroads (with Elizabeth Shue playing his partner). This is never really brought up again, almost as if initially there were flashbacks all throughout the movie that were discarded during the editing process. That’s not to say the film would be better if there were more of this romance, as it might have just become a distraction away from what does work here. It could be argued that the film is about a choice he made (love versus service to his country), but it’s not a choice that has its consequences reverberated to make any sort of emotional impact land. If anything, the closing moments go out of its way to be sentimental for religious reasons rather than romance.
There is potentially enough excitement to make Greyhound work as a forgettable slice of popcorn fun. The Germans employ a number of creative tactics to take out the titular ship, including everything from going underwater and underneath them to an assortment of flanking and evasive maneuvers. There is also one particularly clever decoy tactic that is easily the best scene in the movie. It’s just that by the end, no matter how overwhelming the music got, how hard Tom Hanks tried to sell the religious values (it comes across as ham-fisted and forced), or how much of a hero he was immediately recognized as for his first assignment proving to be such an arduous one (with a few lost allies along the way), it all felt empty. Greyhound is meant to be enjoyed for its exhilarating action, but that’s a tough sell considering the poorly rendered CGI and lack of character stakes. The only time I felt any emotion occurred around the third time Tom Hanks’ Ernie Krause declined some food; here I was eating dinner while this stressed leader couldn’t catch a break.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com