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Greyhound Review

Greyhound debuts Friday, July 10 on Apple TV+.
Normally it’s safe to assume that combining Tom Hanks with a World War II story, especially one that Hanks himself adapted from a book for the screen, would be a safe bet. But Greyhound, which Sony pushed out of its previously scheduled June theatrical release for a streaming slot on Apple TV+, is a surprisingly thin maritime battle film.After famously starring in Saving Private Ryan, and then executive producing both Band of Brothers and The Pacific for HBO, it’s clear Hanks has a genuine affinity and passion for the war and the “greatest generation.” And when you look at the source material for Greyhound, C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd, about a many times-passed over Naval Commander finally being given his own warship as America joins the Allied Powers in early 1942, you can see why, on paper, this is a prime part for the multiple Oscar winner. But hardly any of the lead character’s emotional doubt or inner turmoil that’s detailed in that book arrives on screen.Can even a shell of a Hanks character carry a movie? Of course it can. To a degree. Hanks is nothing if not a consummate actor that immediately draws your focus to the screen. But his Captain Ernie Krause is barely there. He loves a woman (the briefly seen Elizabeth Shue) and hopes to marry her. And…that’s kind of it.

Krause’s inexperience in war isn’t really addressed as Greyhound unleashes 90 minutes of ocean chaos almost immediately (yes, it’s seems like a wildly short runtime for Hanks-driven project). As Krause, and his warship (call sign “Greyhound”), protect a convoy of 37 ships, carrying soldiers and supplies, to England, he finds himself assaulted on all sides by German U-Boats. The conflict is all outward, with Krause’s crew, including Boardwalk Empire’s Stephen Graham, serving as a dependable, stalwart team of blanks slates.

Despite Greyhound being mostly torpedoes, explosions, gunfire, and screaming, a lot of the tension gets drowned out in a sea (literally and figuratively) of CGI. And because the crisis rarely lets up, there’s little room for character. Hanks’ Krause is a dutiful and reverent man. His feet are to the fire here, but he also rarely missteps.

Whereas the book allows for Krause to have flashbacks to events from his life, that work to texturize him as a hero, the film permits none of that, instead occasionally letting us know that Krause is unable to eat because he’s too focused to have an appetite. Essentially, there’s northing about Krause, aside from Hanks’ dependable performance, to grab us and make us care. Or to let us think that, by the end, anything bad will happen to his ship.

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As the film pushes into the third act, the action ramps up (even more) as Krause’s crew squares off against two U-Boats (a fight that includes a glamour shot torpedo dodge) but the dreary visuals of the film, directed by Get Low’s Aaron Schneider, only serve to distance us from the thrills. And the fact that we never get to know any of the supporting characters as characters makes for an even less captivating conflict.

Of course, there are movies out there which can exist, and thrive, on just conflict alone. But the absolute best of those are able to craft characters you care about and root for (nd even arc, in the small space provided). Greyhound feels like a lot of sighed platitudes and screamed coordinates. Even a supremely earnest Tom Hanks can’t save this ship from sinking.

Verdict

Greyhound has occasional bursts of violent excitement but it’s overall lack of engaging characters, the unappetizing CG, and the lackluster story make for a very color-by-numbers outing from a headlining star capable of a whole lot more.

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