“This is what we trained for.”
Greyhound is an almost refreshingly simple at home movie experience, heralding the long forgotten everyman and championing cinema’s most fundamental storytelling techniques throughout its scant run time. There are distinct acts, setups with tangible, sizable payoffs, and the tone – as well as the visual palette – becomes increasingly darker as the journey becomes more and more treacherous. Having said that, Greyhound is not a touchstone picture by any stretch of the imagination, although it does get us from one point to the next without the least bit of hesitation, making for a journey that’s a bit too short-lived yet incredibly visceral. The strengths of the latter override the faults of the former.
Similar in style to Pre-Code classics but set during the Second World War, Greyhound’s populist protagonist Captain Krause (Tom Hanks) is more of a presence and memorable persona than he is a knowable human being. Such is the overwhelming and drowning effect of battle, I suppose. He prays to a God, gives clear orders, drinks coffee to stay awake and often forgets to eat. A few fleeting flashbacks show his romance with Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), yet the film doesn’t have the bandwidth or the patience to elaborate on their relationship. It’s the lone narrative hurdle that Greyhound can’t leap, and perhaps most frustratingly, puts in its own way.
As a grizzled, steely, naval ship designed to destroy, Greyhound is at its best when the film – named after the eponymous Naval vessel – embodies the history of this real life or death game of Battleship. One where the brave officers willingly tread out into an oceanic minefield, where every decision matters and when a rutter must be turned at the exact right moment. It’s an intense, immediate, industriously made feature length chess match. The action hardly stops and it ratcheted up every step of the way, but there seems to be a human element missing from most of the film. We’re left on the outside trying to look in.
By its very nature, Greyhound is more concerned with attempting to see and to perceive what’s going on beneath the surface than it is with the people on the deck doing the looking and delivering the orders. By that measure, the story feels lived in and so specific to this experience; you don’t have to feign belief when all of the exchanges come across as this historically accurate. Beyond the studied authenticity and Aaron Schneider’s assured direction, Greyhound doesn’t give itself enough time to grapple with personal loss and the likeliness of life or death split decisions, making for a war epic that’s far from ever boring, but too impersonal to leave a lasting mark.
“Steady as you go.”
Rating: 3 out of 5