There are so many untold stories of real-life bravery from World War II that one is likely to come across several no matter what field of battle they dig their hands into. Add to that, a lot of these documented accounts are still waiting to be adapted on the screen. And so, it is in this aspect that something about Greyhound; a fictional story that’s much more focused on its fictional character instead of providing a bigger picture of the Battle of the Atlantic, doesn’t feel or sit right with me.
Still, for what its worth, Greyhound makes for a lean, mean & fast-moving naval warfare machine that utilizes its 91-mins runtime efficiently & effectively, and keeps the viewers’ heart rate elevated for the most part with its nonstop barrage of mid-Atlantic carnage. The plot takes place in early-1942 and follows a US Navy captain on his first war-time assignment who has to lead an Allied convoy through the North Atlantic passage while being stalked and relentlessly attacked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.
Written by Tom Hanks and directed by Aaron Schneider, the film doesn’t waste much time setting up the premise or creating a backstory for our protagonist and gets on with the main plot soon enough. The palpable tension of a Nazi submarine just lurking below the ocean surface and the danger it implies is omnipresent, plus the escalation keeps coming which in turn makes the journey all the more tense, gripping & unrelenting. But there are a few needless choices it makes that diminish the film’s overall impact.
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The decision to make the protagonist an inexperienced Navy Commander is to give Greyhound an everyman struggle vibe and the opening scene of his love life is stacked into the film for this reason only. Countless novices with completely different lives back home served during the Second World War so this serves no purpose at all. And it surely doesn’t make our protagonist any special. Also, the German U-boats mocking the Allied destroyers over the radio is another scene that’s uncalled for. It is a cheap device that doesn’t add any dramatic tension whatsoever.
Tom Hanks plays the leader of the Allied convoy crossing the North Atlantic and he is as good as one expects him to be. His assured performance aptly captures the fear, anxiety, conflict & struggle as well as the exhausting nature of the mission & responsibilities that rest on his character’s inexperienced shoulders, and Hanks articulates it all with emotional authenticity. The combat sequences are downright thrilling & operatic, and they are further elevated by the frenzied camerawork, gloomy palette, taut editing, impressive visual effects, bombastic sound design & Blake Neely’s restless score.
On an overall scale, Greyhound is a competently crafted & swiftly paced war film that does what it set out to do and offers an intense experience that’s going to appease most viewers, if not all. Still, there is nothing about it that stands out from the norm, and the film as a whole feels more generic than refreshing. Nonetheless, despite the narrative unfolding aboard the titular vessel above the ocean surface and in the open air, there is a highly claustrophobic feel to it that does work out in the film’s favor. All in all, Greyhound may be far from a great example of warfare filmmaking but for a 91-mins feature, it is well worth a ride.