“Greyhound” stars Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue. Released on Apple TV+ on July 10, 2020, the film has a US Navy Commander defending the convoy from German U-boats.
The film is directed by Aaron Schneider, who also directed the 2003 short film “Two Soldiers” and the 2009 film “Get Low”. It is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester. There have been plenty of war films that take place either on land or on sea. They contain stories about courage, hope, and leadership in the midst of the World War that will be remembered for years to come. This film is indeed one of them. Originally set for a theatrical release, this latest war film became the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced movie theaters to shut themselves down temporarily. Instead of postponing it until next year, the studio decided to release it digitally on Apple TV+, making it the latest original film to appear on Apple’s streaming service, which I don’t have sadly. I’m only able to hold on to at least four streaming services at a time in order to avoid breaking my bank, which includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max. Luckily for me, the streaming service still has the free seven-day trial option, which means I can check out the film and try out the Apple TV+ app at the same time. Thank you, free seven-day trial options. Going back to the topic at hand, is the film good enough to stand alongside the other war classics? Let’s find out.
Taking place months after the United States entered World War II, the film centers on Ernest Krause (Hanks), a career officer turned commander of the USS Keeling. He is tasked to lead an escort group across the North Atlantic. When Krause’s crew is under attack by a wolfpack of German U-boats, he must deal with his self-doubts and personal demons in order to effectively lead his convoy to victory. Similar to “Dunkirk” and “1917”, “Greyhound” wasted no time in getting to the plot right away. Seriously, it just gets right into the action just like that. This is also one of the films where the majority of the story takes place in a single setting. In this case, the film is entirely set in the USS Keeling. In addition to its respective ability to represent the work fundamentals of the Navy vessels, the film took advantage of its 90-minute runtime by offering an exhilarating and smoothly-directed experience that never slows down to take a breather nor exceeds its budget. Unfortunately, its biggest downside to this scenario, aside from releasing the film on a streaming service instead of in the theater, is its lack of strong character development. While the film did give out a few hints at who these characters are, especially Krause (who is remarkably portrayed by Hanks, who also wrote the film’s screenplay), it didn’t deliver anything else to make the viewers care more about them and the situation that they’re in. In other words, “Greyhound” doesn’t entirely work as a character-driven war film. However, I have to say that it does work as a mid-budget, action-driven war thriller. Sure, it didn’t pack a lot of emotional punches when it comes to its storytelling, but the effort that was put into its tension-filled sequences and the high stakes that were given to the characters made this noticeable flaw almost forgivable. Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” had that similar problem. Its characters were nothing to write home about, but its attempt on delivering a tension-filled war experience was nothing but satisfying. I still favor “Dunkirk” for its cinematic scale, but “Greyhound” had some pretty good moments to keep itself afloat, such as the action sequences. What made the action sequences work was not just Schneider’s direction, but also the sound mixing and Blake Neely’s riveting score. There’s nothing too special about the music, but Blake Neely did a solid job at enhancing the experience regardless. I also have to give credit to the sound mixing team for the film’s authenticity when it comes to its environment. It did its job in making its viewers feel like they're actually in the middle of a naval battle. It would’ve been awesome to hear the sound effects in the theater, but hey, what can you do?
Overall, “Greyhound” mostly relies on Tom Hanks and its tension-filled action to prevent itself from sinking, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your expectations. If you’re expecting it to be a non-stop thrill ride that’s well-paced and filled with intense moments, this film will satisfy most of your needs. However, if you’re expecting it to be the next war classic like “Dunkirk” or “1917”, this film will make you want to go down with the ship as soon as possible. Personally, I enjoyed the film because of Hanks’ riveting performance and its ability to provide some intensity in its scenario, even though its character depth was severely lacking. I also have to say that this is something that’s best suited as a theatrical film rather than a “streaming service” film in terms of the sound mixing, but that’s just me. “Greyhound” is available to watch on Apple TV+, so if you’re in a mood for some Tom Hanks goodness, this film should suit you well.
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