“Greyhound” (U.S.-Rated PG-13)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Elisabeth Shue
They’re trying to get us used to this!
With movie theaters here and abroad pushing back reopening dates until progressively later in the year, the idea of staying safely at home and looking to streaming services for world-premiere theatrical releases is quickly becoming an accepted norm for many people.
With many of the films making their debuts on Fridays no less, it’s almost (almost!) as if nothing’s changed.
And while what we’ve seen up to this point this year has largely been cringeworthy, at worst, or snooze-worthy, at best, the steady flow of this parade of new films to these platforms is surely designed to get those not yet fully onboard more accustomed to the idea.
As part of their arsenal, the latest projects are boasting big-time names – from the stars and producers to the writers and directors. There were two large premieres just last weekend: Oscar winner Charlize Theron starring in “The Old Guard” on Netflix (look for my review next week), and two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in “Greyhound” on Apple TV+.
Who is watching anything on Apple TV+, you ask? While nowhere near as popular or well known as Netflix, since it debuted late last year, Apple TV+, like Netflix, has been aggressively trying to attract the biggest names in entertainment.
Hanks is one of those names. With “Greyhound”, not only is he the star, but he also wrote the screenplay, which is based on C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel, “The Good Shepherd” (which, interestingly, is not based on a true story).
The picture had been set for a theatrical release last month, but of course, you know what happened. So far, the move to Apple TV+ appears to be paying off. Reports suggest “Greyhound” has been its biggest debut to date, and also that 30 percent of the audience has been new to Apple TV+.
Tom Hanks plays Captain Phillips…err…Capt. Sully…um…U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause, who’s assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: the Battle of the Atlantic.
Yes, this is yet another World War II movie. But this year does mark the 75th anniversary of the ending of the war. And it doesn’t appear that we will ever tire of this subject, nor that writers will come up with new stories to tell. (Based on some estimates, you could watch 10 WWII movies a day for every year since the war ended, and have barely watched half of the flicks related to that ordeal.)
And yes, Hanks has played a character like this before. Quite a few times actually. Probably more than we can remember. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t do a characteristically admirable job. Hanks’ Krause is a steady, reassuring presence during the film’s many thrilling moments.
Director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) finds new ways to effect excitement and tension, especially with what can best be described as creating a “Jaws”-like aura with every approach of the U-boats – and one in particular – with unsettling camera angles, creepy music and the sinister taunts of someone we assume is that vessel’s captain, Grey Wolf. And thus, with Hanks’ vessel in compelling pursuit, it is effectively the “Greyhound”.
Most refreshingly, though: “Greyhound” is only 91 minutes long! Had this been on another streaming service, the film would likely have been almost as long as World War II itself. Netflix, take note: you can indeed tell a compelling story in under two hours. And if you can’t, you’ve got as many problems as the U-boats in “Greyhound”.
No, it’s not perfect, nor does it reach (or even aim) anywhere near the excellence of last year’s fantastic World War I picture “1918”. The characters, including Hanks’, are largely anonymous and generic. But this is much more of a plot-driven exercise, resulting in a well-executed, lively and entertaining summer adventure. One that won’t leave you exhausted and craving breaks or an intermission, or needing another day or two to complete.
We could get used to this!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.