Released: 10th July
Seen: 7th August
It’s somewhat of a cliché to refer to movies about the war (any war really) as “Dad movies”, but it’s one that feels weirdly appropriate no matter what kind of dad you have. There’s something about the genre that just paints the image of a dad on a couch ignoring everything while watching some good old boys bomb some nameless bad guys who have accents and maybe a weird 4 legged spider on a flag. Greyhound is definitely playing to that kind of dad, but a dad who also has things to do and needs to get his movie watching done in under 80 minutes if it’s at all possible.
Greyhound follows a group of allied cargo ships trying to deliver supplies while being stalked by a gang of German submarines. The leader of one of the ships, Captain Krause (Tom Hanks) happens to be leading a crew for the first time and, while trying to keep his crew and everyone else safe from the German submarines, refuses to eat drink or sleep until he gets the mission done which is causing him to worry about his judgement. All the while split second decisions could be the difference between making it to dry land or being buried at the bottom of the ocean.
Hope you’re ready to hear the phrase “Hard right rudder” yelled over and over again because Greyhound spends more time on the technicalities of being in one of these fights than on the actual characters, which isn’t essentially a bad choice but it does lead to a touch of monotony. The film itself puts all its energy into the details of this one trip over this one small period and that streamlined process means that you will pretty much instantly know if this is your kind of movie. Do you like movies where big ships try to dodge even bigger ships while occasionally shooting at the ships that go underwater? Great, this movie was made for you. Hope you don’t want characters though because characters would be too much excess flab to deal with.
That’s partially where this movie loses me, there’s no actual characters for me to latch onto. Even Krause is really only likable because they were smart and put the most beloved human being on the planet in the lead role, and he actually has something resembling an arc which means the audience is able to sit there and just wonder how long can he hold on, at what point will exhaustion cause him to make a mistake. Everyone else is basically just a warm body, a troop following orders and so when something happens to them it’s hard to care about them. There’s a funeral scene in the movie for 4 characters, it’s meant to be a sad moment… and yet, as I type this sentence it dawns on me that it might’ve been for 3 characters and I can’t name any of them because none of them matter.
The focal performance by Tom Hanks is genuinely what holds all this together, which shouldn’t shock anyone. His sense of urgency makes the audience realise the potential danger that the crew is in. His little moments with the crew, showing him trying to figure out how to lead while also being approachable is some great performing. He is basically carrying the film but god damn it, I just wished I knew something about any of the other crewmembers or that any of them had something resembling a personality.
I think back to a previous war movie from this year that I wasn’t fond of, Midway. While that movie also had an issue with characters (namely relying on ‘oh, I like Darren Criss so I hope his character survives’) at least they had some mild things that made them slightly memorable, and were cast with big enough names that they would at least be memorable. There’s a character in Greyhound that’s just called Messenger, and not just in the credits. That’s the name that’s yelled before he turns up on screen, how am I mean to connect with that?
If all you want is to watch an hour and a half ocean battle, then yeah this film does that well and it’s certainly visually impressive enough to be worth a look but when there’s only one character worth paying any attention to, and even then it’s just because of the actor playing him, I’m not sure what I’m meant to get out of this but I just didn’t like it.