On paper, Greyhound sounds like a potentially riveting WWII thriller. It has a credible lead in the form of Tom Hanks, who is no stranger to playing ordinary heroes caught in a dire situation.
It is also inspired by true events that follow the fictional Captain Ernest Krause (Hanks) in charge of commanding the USS Keeling destroyer a.k.a. Greyhound, as he and his crew attempt to cross the North Atlantic ocean to Liverpool while leading an international convoy of 37 Allied ships. Soon, his leadership is ultimately tested when a wolfpack of German U-boats poses a huge threat along the way. Greyhound also runs a compact 91 minutes, with the likes of extended character development and subplot are all kept to a bare minimum.
That means the movie focuses mainly on the naval battles between Greyhound and the unseen German U-boats. I don’t mind with such a stripped-down approach as long as the movie is able to sustain enough tension throughout its running time. And while it does carry plenty of cat-and-mouse action moments and close calls, Greyhound is sadly a missed opportunity.
Sure, some of the battle sequences coupled with Blake Neely’s eerie, yet engaging score are well-staged. But they are still not enough to overcome most of the movie’s glaring flaws. Aaron Schneider, whose previous feature-length debut was a 2009 drama called Get Low, delivers a fairly workmanlike job in his direction. He did show some flair during the numerous tense moments, even though they tend to get repetitive after a while.
Which explained why the movie feels monotonous as it gradually moves along. The scope is limited, with the majority of the scenes confined in and out of the warship. I was at least expecting something claustrophobic in the line of Wolfgang Petersen’s seminal Das Boot (1981). It didn’t work out as I hope it would be.
The mid-range budget — reportedly cost around US$50 million — also poses another problem here. The budget constraint clearly rears its ugly head in Greyhound, particularly during many of the shoddy CG-laden battle scenes and outside view of the warship. As a result, it robs some of the genuine intensity of the movie.
As mentioned earlier, any elaborate sense of character development is taking a backseat here. Instead, what we have here is men spend their time barking orders and speak heavy naval jargons. This is the result of Tom Hanks’ skeletal and mostly flat screenplay, who adapted it from C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel called The Good Shepherd. I figure he can do better than that. Perhaps he should learn a thing or two from the way Christopher Nolan making excellent use of his own stripped-down screenplay to craft a rousing WWII drama in Dunkirk (2017) like a ticking bomb.
The cast is equally a letdown. Even the calibre of Tom Hanks’ usual everyman persona displayed in his subdued role of Captain Ernest Krause can’t help much either. The supporting cast is almost non-existent here since the bulk of the film revolves heavily around Hanks’ leading role. If only he can shoulder the weight in the acting department admirably enough, this would have been forgivable. Except for the fact that his performance turns out to be nothing worth writing home about.
Originally scheduled for a theatrical release, Sony ends up selling the streaming rights exclusively to Apple TV+ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch it from there beginning July 10th.