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Greyhound Review: Tense and Efficient WWII Action Film Could Have Done Well on the Big Screen

Poster for Greyhound
Sean Fang Sun, 12/07/2020 - 17:47

Rating:

Summary: Efficiently written and made with no dull moments, but comes at the expense of character development. Recommended!


It just wasn't meant to be. Tom Hank wrote and starred in Sony Picture's Greyhound, originally destined for the big screen with a June 12 release date, but COVID-19 put paid to that and the film has been fast-tracked to streaming. It landed on a slightly unexpected streaming platform, Apple TV+, but it's here and having signed up to Apple TV+ just to watch and review it, I have come away from it feeling it really was a missed opportunity.

Still from Greyhound

There have been many submarine/U-boat movies, but this is one of the few that focuses on the other side of these tense sea battles. Greyhound swaps the claustrophobic tension beneath the waves with equally tense encounters above it. In many ways, the openness of the sea and the many dangers above and below it, from all possible directions (or sometimes all directions at the same time) is more terrifying - submarines can hide beneath the oceans, but there's nowhere to hide for Greyhound, the codename of Hank's destroyer the USS Keeling.

Still from Greyhound

Based on a screenplay by star Tom Hanks, who based it on the C. S. Forester novel The Good Shepherd, Greyhound is not a long film. But while it only runs 91 minutes, the WWII actioner does pack a lot in due to its compactness, and there's rarely a dull moment. That is also perhaps the film's biggest flaw, as the efficient manner in which it delivers the action leaves little room for character development. The action comes thick and fast following a short introduction into the personal life of Hank's character Commander Ernest Krause, but that intro doesn't really go anywhere and it might have been just better to skip it and go straight to the action. But once the action does start, there's little room for sentimentality, and it works, because there's little room for anything else (including food and sleep ... so much wasted food) during the in-movie 3 days or so as the convoy is hunted by a U-boat Wolfpack. The music by Blake Neely is also suitably eerie and atmospheric, almost a horror film score foreshadowing the horrors that lie ahead for the convoy. Special effects do the job and don't feel too out of place, which I guess is a compliment.

Still, it's a refreshing change to witness tense U-boat battles from the other side. The fact that the film did not focus on any single decisive or historically important battle is also a plus, allowing room for the story to develop without falling afoul of Wikipedia armed amateur historians (technical inaccuracies notwithstanding).

In summary, Greyhound was rather enjoyable and gave greater insight into the dangers that befell seaman during the Battle of the Atlantic. It is still a film that would have benefitted from a theatrical release (the aforementioned missed opportunity) and it might have done well with audiences. Sadly, we will never know.



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