REVIEW: “Greyhound” (2020)

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By now it’s pretty obvious that Tom Hanks can do just about anything on screen. Think about it. In his 40-year film career he has been a baseball coach, an astronaut, an Irish gangster, a pilot, a newspaper editor-in-chief, a wooden toy cowboy. Heck he’s even played Walt Disney and Mr. Rogers. His latest movie “Greyhound” puts him on familiar ground – playing a ship’s captain (he did that in “Captain Phillips”) during World War II (“Saving Private Ryan” of course).

“Greyhound” was originally picked up by Sony Pictures for an early June theater release. But like many films, it was delayed following the COVID-19 outbreak. In a bold move Apple acquired worldwide distribution rights from Sony for a whopping $70 million. Now the movie is set to premiere July 10th on their relatively new Apple TV+ streaming service and it instantly adds some real heft to their platform. That’s a lot of money, but it turned out to be a really good grab.

“Greyhound” is the sophomore effort from director Aaron Schneider and his first film since his quirky 2010 Southern drama “Get Low”. This is (obviously) a much different movie. It’s based on C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd” with Hanks starring and also writing the screenplay (his first script since 2011’s “Larry Crowne”). It’s set in February 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II and takes place in the heart of the Battle of the Atlantic.

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Photo Courtesy Apple Originals

Hanks plays Captain Ernest Krause, a career Navy officer who is finally given his first command aboard the Fletcher-class destroyer Greyhound. After a quick two months of training with his new crew, Krause is sent to the North Atlantic where he is tasked with escorting 37 merchant ships carrying soldiers and vital supplies to the allies in England. But to get there he must lead them across The Black Pit, a treacherous area out of air support range and swarming with German U-boats. For over 50 hours the convoy would be completely on their own.

Schneider’s tightly packaged war thriller wastes no time ratcheting up the tension. Within five minutes we’re in a white-knuckled game of cat-and-mouse as six German submarines (menacingly called a wolfpack) begin circling the convoy like sharks around their prey. It makes for some thrilling naval combat where instinct and strategy is as much the focus as torpedoes and cannon fire. The film does a great job of making every decision feel like a high-stakes decision. And from the blasts of ocean spray to the boom of the 5″ 38 caliber deck guns, when the action comes the intensity and sense of peril is palpable.

In addition to shooting exhilarating combat, cinematographer Shelly Johnson’s tight-quartered camerawork moves fluidly throughout the cramped ship and around the deck, capturing the close-knit synergy of the crew and putting us right in the middle of it. His crafty framing mixed with Mark Czyzewski and Sidney Wolinsky’s crisp editing keeps things moving at a high-energy pace while adding gravity to each Captain’s order and every exchange between sailors. And thankfully we never get lost in the slew of rapid-fire Navy jargon. Hanks (the writer) pens dialogue that’s organic, believable, and most importantly comprehensible for those of us without our sea legs.

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Photo Courtesy of Apple Originals

“Greyhound” is obviously Tom Hanks’ movie, but no other character even rises to the point of being memorable. There are no bad performances and everyone plays their roles well. But you’ll be hard-pressed to remember anyone other than Krause. Yet it works because Hanks (as you would expect) is terrific and a natural fit for his character. His expressions speak volumes and you never doubt an action he takes or an emotion he relays.

As for his script, Hanks borrows the outline for Krause from Forester’s book, but passes on many of the details. For example Hanks hints at but doesn’t explore Krause’s bouts with insecurity and self-doubt. Instead his film version shows a confident captain with a steady hand yet with quieter concerns. Little is made of it being his first command either narratively or dramatically. Hanks also gives Krause a love interest played by Elizabeth Shue, but frankly it amounts to nothing more than a cameo and their relationship is only skimmed over in a brief opening scene.

That’s because “Greyhound” is all about fully immersing its audience in the critical tactics and perilous execution of World War II naval combat. For a taut 90 minutes the film sticks to that focus, carrying its viewers across the enemy-infested North Atlantic and putting us into the heads of the men navigating it. It could have done more with its characters or built more of a backstory. But it’s the willingness to stick to its guns (no pun intended) that makes the movie such a thrilling war-time experience. “Greyhound” premieres July 10th on Apple TV+”

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

38 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Greyhound” (2020)

    • It’s absolutely worth it. Incredible edge-of-your-seat war-time thriller. The best thing to do is download the app on your smart TV, computer, or tablet. Then sign up for a free trial.

    • My thoughts exactly! I can’t wait to see this but I’m frustrated it’s only on Apple+

      Free trial definitely will be the way to go for me

      • Yep, there are certain things about this potential ‘streaming future’ that I’m not crazy about. Platform exclusivity is one of them. Another has to do with Blu-ray/4K physical copy releases. Will we ever get Greyhound on 4K Blu-Ray? What about Netflix or Amazon Originals? As someone who loves physical, this is a worry.

      • Apple obviously have done this to try and boost their subscriptions, currently about 33 milion (Netflix-183 million at the last count), they’re going to need a lot of new subscribers that don’t cancel the trial to make that 70 million back!

      • Indeed. They’re still pretty new too. This will get them a lot of attention, but sustained subscriptions? I don’t know.

        Just toooo many companies in the streaming game right now.

      • I remembered after our convo here that I recently got an upgrade on my iPhone which gives me a years free Apple TV so I’ve activated it 😃 not sure my tv can do it but fingers xt!

      • Yeah it will depend, for me, on whether they can consistently load up their service with quality titles that you also can’t get anywhere else. I am hard pressed to sign up for a new service for just one or two titles. Disney+ is actually now really tempting me

      • Oh yeah I’d forgotten Cloud Atlas. Wasn’t a fan of the book though. I haven’t seen it but the remake of The Ladykillers looked pretty dire. But that’s some hit rate. Would love to meet him.

    • Oh you absolutely should, especially with your love for history. I was going to do that before snagging a screener. I still plan too so I can (hopefully) watch it in full 4K. I think you’ll love it.

    • HA! Anxious to hear your more thoughts on it. I can see where it might get some criticism, but it truly is about immersing you in the combat. And that’s something it does REALLY well.

  1. Oh, good, I’m glad you liked it. But you LOVE Tom Hanks and are willing to be generous in your estimation. In the end, I’d say you love to be entertained. And this did the trick! Looking forward to watching it myself.

  2. I like Hanks and I liked Get Low as well, but I don’t know if this is something I’d pay money to see. I’ve been throwing around the idea of getting a trial of Apple TV so I can binge a bunch of shows I want to watch. Maybe I’ll make this part of it if I do that.

    • I think it’s phenomenal, but if you’re not a big fan of war films this might not be your movie. It is very much that. It’s all about immersion and putting you in the heat of battle. They had me hooked from start to finish.

  3. Pingback: REVIEW: “Greyhound” (2020) — Keith & the Movies | First Scene Screenplay Festival

  4. Pingback: 22+ Greyhound Reviews – Tense, Terse WWII Naval Combat, Tom Hanks Shines – Movies, Movies, Movies

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