Director: Aaron Schneider
Screenwriter: Tom Hanks
Starring: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham
Tom Hanks takes to his extensive typewriter collection to pen the screenplay of the World War II action/drama Greyhound, released exclusively on Apple TV+.
Greyhound is Hanks’ first outing in the writing chair since he wrote the screenplay for Larry Crowne alongside Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) back in 2011. Other than a few episodes of TV dramas (such as ‘Band of Brothers’) and a 90s comedy flick (That Thing You Do!), Hanks is relatively new to being credited as a writer on film. His successful published anthology of short stories, “Uncommon Type”, appeared on the New York Times best seller list, so we know he can write and he’s clearly very passionate about it – a notion that resonates on screen when watching Greyhound – but did his Oscar nominated World War II naval combat drama pay off?
Set in the North Atlantic in 1942, the Greyhound vessel leads a fleet of supply ships from North America to Great Britain in one of many vital supply missions during the second World War. Hanks portrays Greyhound’s captain, Captain Ernie Krause, who finds himself being the commander of an unexpected attack from the Nazis as they cross “The Black Pit”, an area of the ocean known for being undefended waters during the battle of the Atlantic.
Captain Ernie Krause is established early on as a religious man, despite the turmoil of his surroundings he still finds time to say his blessings before eating, prays before bed and doesn’t tolerate foul language within the crew. This character trait seems somewhat irrelevant to the rest of the plot, however Hanks gives an unsurprisingly believable performance. There’s an attempt to build a vague character arc around Krause with the use of seemingly random flashbacks, including one in which we see him propose to a glamorous woman who refuses him – a plot point that doesn’t get revisited and doesn’t receive the payoff it deserves.
Stephen Graham (The Irishman) features as Charlie, Krause’s first mate, and fills the screen with his emphasised American accent and naturally aggressive tones. Graham gives a brilliant performance and brings some much needed enthusiasm to the piece. Despite lacking in shared screen time, the pair showcase a certain chemistry that a film like this requires.
The supporting cast keep Hanks at the top of his mantel whilst feeling fairly immaterial. There’s a strange dynamic between the rest of the crew, most of the characters not even being named and therefore receiving the credits of “Messenger #1″, “Messenger #2”, etc. They all seem to hate each other for some unknown reason and there’s a lot of aggravation between them which makes for somewhat uncomfortable watching.
Due to the claustrophobic nature of the plot, 95% of the story is set in the cockpit of the Greyhound but thanks to clever cinematography and a creative effects department the visuals help to power the action sequences.
Rightfully earning itself an Oscar nomination for its sound, the sound effects and score stood out as the strongest aspects of the film. Ultimately Greyhound is built on shouting, explosions and water, all of which require a strong audio track to both create the realism of the events and keep our attention. Similarly, the use of voiceover is paramount to the film – there’s a vast amount of communication between the different ships and more so when the Nazis come into the picture.
Will it win the Oscar? Probably not. But it’s a worthy nomination.
Overall Greyhound has potential to be something powerful, emotional and dynamic but lacks in substance. The plot would have benefitted hugely from an additional 20 minutes on the run time but ultimately it won’t leave anyone asking for more. The severe lack of drama and character development (and far too much boat lingo) made for an at times difficult and somewhat boring experience. Other than the sound design, there’s little here to keep your focus.