Review: Tom Hanks headliner 'Greyhound' floats adrift
Courtesy of Apple TV+
I doubt anyone will argue that Tom Hanks isn’t a national icon and is basically our cinematic father-figure. There are few movies in Hanks career that haven’t lived up to audiences expectations which makes his new movie “Greyhound” a shocking disappointment.
Joining a rare club of bad Tom Hanks movies that includes “Inferno,” and “Larry Crowne,” “Greyhound” is a 90 minute clunker that, when not showing a harrowing close-up on Hanks, is riddled with poorly defined characters who fail to hold the screen.
One can’t help but think the film - originally scheduled for a wide theatrical release back in May - might have been salvaged in the theatrical setting as the film looks weak on a flat screen and was obviously tailored for the IMAX treatment. And while the sound mixing is worth applauding, my decent audio system couldn’t do justice to what the filmmakers had intended. If anything “Greyhound“ proves how vital theaters still are.
The film is centered around World War II and concerns the efforts to provide Britain with supplies and troops via naval convoys at sea on the Atlantic, which enemy forces - notably a German U-Boat dubbed “wolf packs” - often stalk and sink. “Greyhound” was adapted by Hanks from C.S. Forester’s novel “The Good Shepherd” and clearly the actor has made the movie with his heart on his sleeve, using the film as a celebration of patriotism and duty but not as a showcase for himself. (Okay maybe a little as a showcase for himself).
Taking place over a few days in 1942, “Greyhound” asserts some creative liberties with the real life, decades-long Battle of the Atlantic. The titular American destroyer, leader of a squad that includes Candaian and British allies, is led by Ernest Krause (Hanks) an aging officer with zero experience in battle. At the beginning of the film we’re told there are portions of the Atlantic devoid of air protection, signaling Krause and his crew - for hours on end - will be tested for durability and strength as they cross into enemy territory with a German U-Boat hot on their tails.
Those first twenty minutes (the film clocks in just under the 90 minute mark) lays the foundation for an episodic sea thriller meant to encapsulate its audience, but instead Hanks script never gets a lid on the material and fails to add tension in the ensuing 45 minutes. Mainly because Krause isn’t an intriguing character and Hanks fails to give him much depth beyond praying before dinner. This guy is supposed to be inexperienced, but his flaws are only briefly mentioned in passing, thus giving Hanks another rousing hero to save the day which is how “Greyhound” stumbles into typical WWII movie redundancy.
The obvious comparisons are the emotional strain Hanks put on display in “Captain Phillips” and “Sully,” two heroes that faced insurmountable odds and managed to save the day. Krause lacks the bite or tenacity of Hank’s usual steady and solid screen presence. Where’s the charisma seen in “Catch Me If You Can?” Or the grit from “Bridge of Spies?” Part of me was waiting for Hanks to embrace the character and try something new and instead it came up flat, which doesn’t happen too often for the two time Oscar winner.
Director Aaron Schnider manages to sneak in a few visual cues worthy of mentioning: like how we see the Wolf-Pack U-boat descend from the water like the shark from “Jaws,” or how enemy torpedoes slink by and barely miss the edge of the Greyhound. These standoffs between the vessels are moderately crafted and elevate the underwhelming lead performance at its core, as well as the crew members who are basic stock characters borrowed from every war movie ever made. Yet with no human characters to truly empathize or relate too, all these missiles and dodged bullets don’t really hold any weight.
To add insult to injury, there's a flashback that showcases Elizabeth Shue playing Krause’s love interest (I’m assuming his wife: the movie doesn’t say) for literally two seconds in an effort to showcase emotional levity, but like much of “Greyhound” that too felt like a cheap gimmick.
GREYHOUND premieres on Apple TV+ Friday July 10th.