A-Ron’s Movie Reviews: Greyhound (2020)

The new World War II film starring Tom Hanks has had a long, expensive and delayed journey that Sony had originally planned for a theatrical release. Due to the pandemic, it was halted for any further release dates and Apple took it off of Sony’s hands at the cost of $70 million, to premiere it exclusively on their streaming service AppleTV+. “Greyhound” cries for a widescreen treatment on the big screen and some much needed character development. The script, written by Tom Hanks doesn’t give us much background or development to his character or his crew aboard his ship. The lack of character development, makes up for it in the films action sequences. If you’re looking for naval warfare, with ship vs. ship combat. “Greyhound” offers exactly that and it’s short 90 minute runtime, has tense, exciting and well choreographed battles in the middle of the raging waters. Hanks has a real commitment to honoring the heroes of World War II and to make sure everything is accurate, including his Naval jargon. “Greyhound” has it’s biggest flaw in the scripts character developments, but is still a decently strong release worth watching. Although it’s really meant for a big theatrical rollout, this is just a hint of things to come for the AppleTV+ streaming service. While it’s their first big budget project, it certainly won’t be their last.

The new Tom Hanks WWII film, focuses on the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history…The Battle of the Atlantic. Both the battle and the film found itself on turbulent waters for the Tom Hanks scripted “Greyhound”, to get to this point. It’s been a long, expensive and delayed project that Sony had originally planned for theaters. With the shutdown of all movie theaters due to the Covid pandemic, “Greyhound” was halted for any further release date and mega company Apple took it off of Sony’s hands at the cost of $70 million, to premiere it exclusively on their streaming service AppleTV+ (for a $4.99 month subscription). 

“Greyhound” faces a double edge sword as being a film that would have benefited from a widescreen treatment, especially for it’s well staged action sequences. While at the same time benefits from premiering on home screens for the Naval veterans who wouldn’t have been able to head to the multiplexes. 

Based on C.S. Shepherd’s 1955 book, “The Good Shepherd. The setting is December 1941, just weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor as U.S. Navy captain Commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks), with his flock of sailors at his command are fighting the enemies of Nazi U-boats, that are seeking to blow them out of the water during the height of WWII. It’s Krause’s first command and the assignment to protect the supply ships in the Atlantic is a dangerous mission, especially this being his first mission. 

You can see in his demeanor that Krause doesn’t always know if he’s up to the task, which brings further tension to an already 90 minute roller coaster ride. Krause is shown to rely on his faith and the experience of his crew to get by, but even they might not be enough against the relentless Nazi assault. The movie opens on a heartbreakingly quiet moment in what is an otherwise stale prologue, as Krause’s marriage proposal is rejected by the woman he loves (played by an always welcome Elisabeth Shue). She wants to wait until the world is no longer in chaos, while he shoots her a look that says “That day just might never come”, before heading off into battle. 

Unfortunately that is as far as we get to knowing, who Krause is? Krause is a potentially complex character, given that we learn, this is his very first command at an age when most of his fellow men are retiring. We don’t get to know much about him, nor do we ever find out why it took the Navy so long to entrust Krause with a ship, or why he is so compassionate and understanding when his men make fatal mistakes. 

Captain Krause isn’t the only one we get short handed in knowing, as “Greyhound” also spends very little time with the many men aboard Krause’s ship. There are times when Krause calls a crew member by the wrong name and we can see where he’s coming from because we, too, haven’t gotten to know anyone on board.

The lack of character development in Tom Hanks’ script, makes up for it in the films action sequences. If you’re looking for naval warfare, ship vs. ship combat, that’s exactly what “Greyhound” offers and on that alone it’s tense, exciting and patriotic. It’s 90 solid minutes of battles in the middle of the raging waters, with cannons firing, torpedoes launching and a lot of “Hard right to seaboard!” dialogue.

Hanks who is a real history buff, has a real commitment to honoring the heroes of World War II through his creative partnership with Steven Spielberg. His collaboration with Spielberg is legendary, having teamed up to make one of the best movies and two of the best miniseries ever about the second World War. From “Saving Private Ryan” to their HBO mini series “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”, with a planned third WWII miniseries from the duo, titled “Masters of the Air”, bound for streaming in another venue on AppleTV+. 

Hanks pays great attention to detail once again for “Greyhound” and mist of it feels authentic, especially within the claustrophobic bowels of the ship and in his precise naval terminology. The only time it feels goofy and less than authentic, is when the Nazi predators break into the radio frequency and begin taunting the Allies in English. It feels like something out of a bad serial killer movie and not a WWII film that strives on detail.

The production values are top-notch, with well done CGI. Director Aaron Schneider keeps the pacing tight, with no melodramatic interludes or character developments to slow things down. Tragedies occur but it’s never dwelled upon as Schneider and Hanks puts us in the midst of the battle. Krause and his crew have little time to grieve and the film conveys how every second onboard the ship is life or death, with no room for margin of error. The nearly 90 minutes of battle scenes, keeps us at a safe distance from getting emotionally involved on a level that this story deserves.

Earlier in his career, Tom Hanks was often compared to James Stewart and he has written “Greyhound” as the kind of movie, from those golden age war films that the Hollywood icon would have taken on later in his career. Hanks’ performance is reminiscent of classic Hollywood and while it feels old fashioned at the same time it doesn’t with it’s high gloss visual effects and 4K resolution. 

It’s clear that Hanks and director Aaron Schneider, have a specific vision for what “Greyhound” is to be. It tells a tight, contained story that’s not trying to reinvent the war movie. “Greyhound” isn’t even remotely in the same league as “Saving Private Ryan” or his two HBO miniseries, but it knows how to be taut, tense and an efficient dramatization of WW2 Naval warfare.

As far as Naval war films go, I still prefer Gerard Butler’s “Hunter Killer” from 2018. If your a subscriber to AppleTV’s low priced streaming services, then “Greyhound” is a decently strong release worth watching. Although it’s really meant for a big theatrical rollout, this is just a hint of things to come for the streaming service. It’s their first big budget project, but it certainly won’t be their last.

GRADE: ★★1/2☆☆☆ (2 & 1/2 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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