Greyhound Review: Hanks commands the screen in this excellent, slow-burning thrill ride
Moving onto Apple TV+ after the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to keep movies out of theaters, Greyhound puts Tom Hanks in the captain’s seat yet again for a suspenseful navy battle on the high seas.
The film follows Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks) – who is taking the commanding post of a large Navy destroyer, codenamed GREYHOUND, for the first time in his career. Throughout WWII, the Germans began to unleash U-boats into the Atlantic in order to disrupt supply convoys between North American and Britain. Ships like the Greyhound act as a protector to the convoys and get them from place to place with as few casualties and lost cargo as possible. After their air support leaves them on their own on the open sea, Krause must command his crew with confidence as they fight against different U-boats in order to keep their convoy safe.
Watching Hanks as Krause heavily reminds me of seeing Brad Pitt in Ad Astra as their performances stray from their usual dialogue heavy strengths and focuses more on them expressing their respective character’s emotions through body language. Hanks is stellar in subtly showing how Krause’s inexperience affects him and his fears coming to light as U-boats continue to disrupt their journey. However, he can never let any of his crew know that he’s a rookie commander and holds himself together with confidence and incredibly swift in delivering directions and commanding his crew. It’s a great conflict of emotions that Hanks thrives at maintaining and it works really well in creating a strong narrative about Krause finding personal success.
As the convoy begins to be berated by U-boats and some ships begins to sink in fiery explosions, the impact it has on Krause and the crew is very easy to see. Each ship they lose is another bode of confidence lost and it not only creates a sense of doubt within the crew of Krause’s leadership, but also some doubt within Krause about his own ability to lead. There’s this very subtle power struggle taking place throughout the film that’s incredibly compelling to watch and it’s a very simple story on the surface that’s made incredibly detailed with how it immerses viewers into every aspect of battle.
Naval battle is very different than just watching a barrage of gunfire on the battlefield. It’s much more strategic, slow-moving, and focuses on landing the killing blow in quickest fashion possible. All of this is what makes Krause delivering multiple commands that his crew repeats so important as it immerses you into the dire moments they face and creates this slow-building tension. There’re times where one command that Krause makes, or one crew member’s mistake could lead the convoy to victory or defeat and it’s what makes Greyhound a slow-burning thrill ride that has viewers latching onto every line of dialogue. It also all comes together to give Krause a very fulfilling ending that’s sort of an emotional swell of personal victory that’s impactful through the simply and effective writing from Hanks’ screenplay.
Now, not everything within this story is perfect because outside of Hanks, the other characters are pretty much nicely dressed wall decorations for Krause’s narrative. No one else really gives off their own unique impression outside of their positions within the crew and everything just falls back on how it affects Krause. For instance, there’s a crew member that’s close to Krause that dies in battle and the only real effect it has within the film or on the viewer is when Krause calls his replacement by the wrong name. The film also establishes this villain, which is a German U-boat with a wolf symbol on it, that’s impossible to take seriously. Frankly, it’s hard to say whether the voice of the ship contacting the Greyhound reminded more of Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises or some kind of James Bond supervillain. Either way, it’s strips away some realism of the film and is totally unnecessary.
It’s actually sort of a shame that Greyhound didn’t end up making it theaters because the visuals of these scenes and the strong direction from Aaron Schneider could’ve been spectacular to see on the big screen. There’s this great scene of the Greyhound almost ramming into a merchant ship that’s very well built up and visually ominous in a way that ramps up the suspense. Even the long-winded fights capture viewer’s attention through seeing depth charges at use and panning through every movement of the ship during battle. The film makes great use of its 90-minute runtime by grabbing your attention with the stunning visuals and holding it through the film’s strong narrative and intense battles. Even Krause’s finale moment is elevated through the visuals as the film gives his victorious final moment the fulfilling visual flare it deserves.
Greyhound delivers strong, slow-burning thrills through its incredibly simple narrative about finding confidence and gaining respect in the heat of battle that’s both visually pleasing and emotionally satisfying. It’s a great showing of Hanks’ talent both in front of and behind the camera and is probably one of the greatest acquisitions for Apple TV+.