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Jack Bottomley
Media Correspondent
11:56 AM 16th July 2020

Review: Greyhound

It is somewhat of a shame that director Aaron Schneider’s World War II seafaring picture, based on C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd, has not been able to arrive in cinemas, as it is a picture the big screen would be well suited to. Instead, the film has floated its way exclusively over to Apple TV+ and while some might fear this doesn’t speak much of its quality, Greyhound is a good old fashioned war story that does not waste one moment of its 91 minute running length.

Starring Tom Hanks (who wrote the film’s screenplay) as Commander Ernest Krause, the film tells the story of his hellacious first time in command of the USS Keeling, as his vessel leads a multi-national escort group, defending convoy ships from submarine attack. Set in the midst of The Battle of the Atlantic, this is a physical sea bound second world war thriller, that places you in the heart of an against all odds battle and from the moment it begins, it doesn’t really let up.

Some may be put off by this film’s concise approach but what Greyhound lacks in character depth, it makes up for in its muscular impact and economical construction. The screenplay is simple and assured in the story it is wanting to tell and how it wants to do it. Greyhound gets straight to the mission at hand and refreshingly does not romanticise details or dwell too much on multiple emotional sub-plots. Aside from an opening flashback which sees Elisabeth Shue as Ernest’s lover Evelyn meet with him prior to departure, Schneider does not pad out the story with narrative detours and it is all largely set on the raging seas, as this mission goes from tough to nigh on impossible for the commander and his crew, as they await air support and the hours feel like days.

Clear dialogue is placed wisely (but sparingly) at key moments, outside of the orders being yelled over the gun-firing sea-crashing fray. You get just enough of what you are meant to and the rest is an audible haze, purposely intended to highlight what it must have been like being there in the anarchy of battle surrounded by the ferocity of nature and your enemy. This is a film of the many senses, one which has Blake Neely's brilliant Dunkirk-esque score and Shelly Johnson’s visuals largely tell.

Instead of waxing lyrical about what is going on through extravagant dialogue or preachy monologues, Greyhound chooses its words with care, and predominantly shows you through frosting windscreens, bloodied feet or fuzzy radar screens, the resolve, the physicality and the desperation of this battle. Be it Ernest’s increasing fatigue, the crew’s slipping grasp on hope, the taunting enemy transmissions or - most powerfully of all - a reflection on the tragedy of the conflict and the souls forever lost at sea, Greyhound says a lot through all manners of means. In fact the film’s most bruising emotional moment is practically unseen, involving Rob Morgan’s concerned and dedicated head chef Cleveland.

Hanks leads the cast powerfully as this commander battling insurmountable odds externally but taking on so much more than the conflict internally, as his religious beliefs clash with his duty and the losses tallied take a real toll on a man who wants to save more than he wants to destroy. The supporting characters (played by a number of familiar faces like Stephen Graham and Tom Brittney) are less defined and more a collective machine working as one in an overpowering mission but this approach feels right for Hanks’ contained story.

Some might paint Greyhound as a cold film but I would very much disagree. This is a film where less is actually more and despite the many grand naval battle scenes (with decent effects work at play) that populate the movie, the strongest moments are by far the most subtle ones unleashed.

12A
Director: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Elisabeth Shue
Release Date: Out Now (Apple TV+ Exclusive)