Greyhound review: An efficient WWII thriller
Ivan Radford | On 10, Jul 2020
Director: Aaron Schneider
Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan
Watch Greyhound online in the UK: Apple TV+
The North Atlantic. 1942. 37 Allied ships are carrying thousands of soldiers to the front line. Out of range of air cover for five days and hotly pursued by Nazi U-boats, the boats find themselves fleeing for their lives with nowhere to go but into dangerous waters.
It’s a pitch that would have any war movie fan sitting up to pay attention, especially when you learn that Tom Hanks is in the lead role of Captain Ernest Krause – the head of the convoy. Not only that, but Hanks has also adapted the screenplay from the novel The Good Shepherd by CS Forester. But despite its evident pedigree, Greyhound’s bark is more impressive than its bite.
The film is set almost entirely on the US destroyer under Krause’s command – his first voyage at the helm. That decision to confine us along with the ship’s crew in the one location does an excellent job of immersing us in the claustrophobic processes and routines of military life. The jargon flies fast, the orders not quite as quickly and the uncertainty gradually mounts. Over the radio, the wolf-pack of enemy subs taunt them with threats of their demise.
Director Aaron Schneider balances them all with efficiency, tapping into the creaking, clanking sounds of naval warfare. There are a number of nail-biting sequences, particularly one moment when the destroyer has to try and out-manouevre a U-boat’s torpedos, risking toppling the whole vessel sideways into the waves.
But the opening sequence, which sees Ernest big farewell to his sweetheart (Elizabeth Shue), highlights what’s missing from the whole affair: heart. The cast are slick and sure-footed, from Stephen Graham as Ernest’s second-in-command to Rob Morgan as the dutiful ship’s cook (who is sorely under-used). Hanks, too, is clearly engaged with his man of God, who looks at a verse from Hebrews by his bedroom mirror as he steers himself through fear and jeopardy.
But that engagement never quite makes it through the screen to the audience; the whole thing clocks in at a concise 90 minutes, but leaves you wishing there were more scenes to get to know the crew and their captain. Hanks is the definitive everyman of modern cinema, but Ernest is never given the chance to be distinctive enough to leave an impression. That may be the point, as Greyhound keeps its eyes firmly on the challenge at hand, but if this is intended as a game of Battleship, there are misses as well as hits.
Greyhound is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial.