Directed By Aaron Schneider
Starring – Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Karl Glusman
The Plot – Based upon the novel “The Good Shepherd” by C S Forester, this is the thrilling story of the leader of an Allied convoy crossing the North Atlantic in 1942 as he faces relentless attack by a Nazi submarine wolf pack. The leader of the convoy’s destroyer screen is a US Navy commander (Hanks) making his first Atlantic crossing. The story focuses on the his command responsibility as he fights the cold, the relentless night, the brutal sea and his deep fatigue as he chases down the attacking submarines in the deadly game of cat and mouse. The exciting story, a thrilling ride-along with the beleaguered captain, so deeply portrays the elements of battle command that for a long period of time the book was used as a text at the US Naval Academy.
Rated PG-13 for war-related action/violence and brief strong adult language
– Absorbing atmosphere. While a lot disappoints with the overall storytelling to the film’s narrative, the production aspects both aesthetically and audibly illustrate and immersive experience that feels every bit faithful as it does conflicting to our group of characters aboard this ship. Schneider shoots claustrophobically enough to where the lack of privacy and enhanced sound quality register superbly enough without feeling like a forced gimmick by the story’s hands. In addition to this, the grainy and intentionally mundane cinematography by Shelly Johnson, the same man who transported us to the 1930’s in “Captain America: The First Avenger”, feels both reflective and atmospheric of the conditions that define this moot environment, outlining war on the water s this ugly surreal smokescreen that envelope each of the men engaged into it. Finally, the mostly natural lighting elements that sometimes challenge our eyes incoherently might not make for the most visually appealing aspects of the production, but earns an ample amount of respect from this critic for the way it remains faithful to the late night ambushes that were prominent when these soldiers couldn’t see what was lurking in the dark distance. It gives “Greyhound” an occasional experience where it transcends Hollywood cinema, and like Johnson commanding the strings off-screen, transports us to a time where urgency and uncertainty met in the middle of a massive seabed where many vanished without warning.
– Navy morals. Very few movies have covered the water aspects of World War 2 like “Greyhound” does, and even with a screenplay with its own entertaining obligations, it doesn’t balk at depicting the traditions and ideals of the heroes that these actors partake in. Aside from being a family that grows together the longer their mission takes shape, we come to understand this as a complete team effort where all hands on deck are steering this mission forward. This not only grants importance to each man, but succeeds in taking us through everything involved in a single solitary strike leading to a bigger picture in the war. Aside from this, the behavior of these men constantly feels top class, even so much as condemning weakness from one of their own who momentarily sneezes when he is supposed to be watching a screen. It proves that this elite group holds themselves to a higher standard, and it’s one that the movie harvests faithfully throughout, channeling a personality that feels completely different from any other military branch we’ve seen set in the World War II era.
– Hanks you very much. This is obviously a one man show, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that when it gives us a chance to admire one of the game’s best. Hanks plays Captain Krause with the kind of empathy and bravery that has earned him the prestige as one of Hollywood’s most classic leading lads, but for me it’s the selfless demeanor that makes this character so compelling even when the characterization leaves slightly more to be desired. Krause constantly puts his men first, refusing to eat or sleep until the mission is attained. This brought several reminders of Hanks’ turn in “Saving Private Ryan” as Captain Miller, but for entirely different reasons, as he wears the weight of a fine love on his shoulder waiting for him at home. He maintains the humanity of the character when the position requires him to be anything but, and gives us another Hanks helmed character who finds another way to charm us with refined exuberance.
– Up-roaring musical score. I wanted this to have its own honorable mention, because composer Blake Neely underlines the movie’s intense action sequences with an orchestral plunge that defines urgency in the most vulnerable of places. It’s not necessarily a difficult thing to channel accurately on the vibes of war, but what impressed me is that none of his themes ever feel redundant or stale with their predecessors, switching things up just enough so that each battle has its own audible identity to make it stand out above the rest. Neely incorporates a combination of drums, organs, and plodding deliveries that reciprocate what the waters on-screen are throwing at us, giving us the necessary impacts that reinvests us during the climatic highs of the story’s movements. One unfortunate thing that did bother me about Blake’s score, however, was the abundance of whale moans incorporated to the music, meant to compare and contrast these ships as the new predators of the seas. I get the intention, but Neely hits on it no fewer than twenty times throughout the film, and after a while it just becomes tediously desperate. Even still, a small critique in an overall elevating symphony.
– Editing techniques. One unique aspect of the post production, and perhaps the lone example of creativity that this movie exerts against its predecessors is its tempo of editing schemes that change and adapt to the beats of the story surrounding it. When the story is grounded through moments of exposition and minimal character development, the editing feels patient, granting us moments of testing long takes that bring out the talent associated with this ensemble. However, when the action presents itself, and ratchets the intensity to ten, the editing rapidly increases without feeling consequentially choppy. It frames the story in a way that allows it to move as one continuous entity, all the while churning out a consistency that flows vibrantly with battleships that unfortunately rely on slow movements of arsenal to win the day.
– Storming pacing. I have my own set of problems with a run time that barely clocks in at 82 minutes before the end credits hit, but I can say that I was never bored with “Greyhound”. How could I be? Almost immediately, we are thrust into the heat of the environment with our protagonist and his group of freedom fighters cast against unfavorable odds that sets the precedent for what’s to come. As the film progresses, similar to a war, there’s very few moments of down time in between to catch our breath or absorb the consequences of what predated the current scene. It continues at a sharp, shifting pace all the way to a final sequence that closes the movie out when the adrenaline is at its peak, never affording us the chance to get too lost into its story, for better or worse.
– Not long enough. The strange counterbalance to smooth pacing is a story with very little dramatic elements to sell the despair of its situation. There’s no dynamics between these characters that even remotely touches any two of the characters in “Saving Private Ryan”, nor is there any further elaborating on the love story that opens up our film. These are one and done subplots that move into frame long enough to spark curiosity, then abandon us when the need to include them could do wonders in breaking apart the war sequences that often times bleed together. For my money, I could easily use another 20 to 30 minutes of exposition to further flesh out the characters, and enhance the hopelessness of the situation that any great war movie has no problems conveying. Instead we get the bare minimum of big screen run times that rushes through a story with no sentimentality to steer its chosen course.
– Characterization absence. I’ve hinted at it everywhere throughout this review, so why waste any more time? Without question, the weakest aspect of this film is its characters, or lack there of to invest in. Hanks is fine enough because he’s Tom Hanks, and you can invest in him as a paper bag on-screen, but it’s the soldiers surrounding Tom that raises the biggest red flag, and alludes to many problems that an hour after watching the movie I can’t pinpoint. I can’t remember any of their names, nor can I point to one lone trait between them that diversifies any of them from this abundance of fresh faced kids with nothing to contribute creatively to the story. One could argue that “Dunkirk” did this with its characters, in that no soldier is as important as the war itself that defines each of them, but the problem with that logic here is that predecessor had those moments of somber resonance in between to channel their bravery, even when you never truly got to know those characters. For “Greyhound”, there’s no diversion away from Hanks that makes any of them seem remotely valuable, and it’s hard to invest in their plights because of such.
– Strange scene transitions. Part of me thinks there’s a two hour cut of this movie lying on someone’s editing room floor. I say that because there are some abrupt transitions particularly during the early third act of the movie that seem to cut just before pivotal moments of climatic dispersion. This wouldn’t be a problem if the movie cut to black frequently throughout the film, but this artistic decision comes out of nowhere, and really stilts what little dramatic pulse the movie has going for it. These aren’t even finely crafted transitions that play into the never-ending atmosphere of war. They are these stalling moments of whiplash that offers us an escape door that we rightfully shouldn’t be receiving, and feels like one of the two problems I had aesthetically with the movie’s war sequences.
– Faulty action set pieces. By themselves, the thunderous action and riveting visuals are a spectacle that I wish I would’ve gotten more chances to engage in. Why I didn’t is because of a series of horrendously conceived camera angles that couldn’t be worse for the integrity of the environment. Almost everything depicted feels like far-sighted filmmaking that has the audience watching everything from a distance. There are occasional moments when the action gets up close, but because of the increasing editing speeds that I mentioned during the positives, there are very few moments of enjoyment to take everything in. It doesn’t help that this is a movie about strategies, as more times than not we are told what is happening instead of colorfully shown what is happening. It distorts what should be the first necessity in a war movie, and skimps on the action because its hands aren’t sturdy enough to hold the ammunition.
My Grade: 6/10 or C+