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‘Greyhound’ explores World War II struggles through a forgotten lens

‘Greyhound’ explores World War II struggles through a forgotten lens

‘Greyhound’ explores World War II struggles through a forgotten lens
July 15
12:00 2020

“I wouldn’t need to take this risk if I’d been smarter yesterday.”

“What you did yesterday got us to today.”

“It’s not enough, Charlie. Not nearly enough.”

During World War II, 3,500 ships and 72,200 lives were lost during the six-year Battle of the Atlantic, when Allied forces fought for control over the Atlantic ocean. The sea was crucial to the success of the Allies, as U.S. Naval cargo ships transported supplies into Europe. Tom Hanks‘ new screenplay “Greyhound,” which was initially intended for a theatrical release but moved to Apple TV+ following the COVID-19 pandemic, explores the Greyhound ship’s treacherous mission to cross the ocean while German submarines lurk beneath.

The entertainment world seems to have an obsession with the World War II era, so the genre is already oversaturated. We’ve seen our fair share of stories told from the perspective of soldiers (“Dunkirk,” “Pearl Harbor“) and European civilians trying to live amidst Nazism and escape the Holocaust (“Schindler’s List,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas“) and even satirical comedies (“Jojo Rabbit,” “Inglourious Basterds“). So it’s rare to find a film from this era that you haven’t already seen before, but Hanks manages to assemble a story from an often neglected perspective. While the thematic essence of the film — the patriotic, inspirational tale of everyday men called to accomplish remarkable feats with heroism and sacrifice — is nothing new, we rarely see military accounts outside of foot soldiers and fighter pilots. “Greyhound” takes us to the sea to explore an often overlooked side of World War II history.

Naturally, Hanks would also star in the film as Captain Ernest “Ernie” Krause, as he’s no rookie when it comes to fighting in World War II (“Saving Private Ryan“) or being a captain at sea (“Captain Phillips“). We don’t really know much about him, save for a two-minute flashback at the beginning of the film featuring his love interest. Other than that, he’s quite religious, honorable, humble and diligent. That’s about the most character revealed throughout the film. While the lack of depth does make the movie less emotionally engrossing, it means we get to spend more time analyzing the big picture rather than individual characters. If you can’t tell from my previous reviews, I place a lot of emphasis on characters when it comes to judging a film, but given the subject matter, I think it works here to see this journey from a purely action-oriented standpoint. I honestly wish they hadn’t put that short flashback in at all, as it seemed out of place.

Now, I say action-oriented here because it is — Krause’s journey across the Atlantic was no cakewalk. But the film is definitely tamer than other popular war films. While1917 had me gritting my teeth and wincing as I braced for impact throughout the entire film, “Greyhound” evoked that same feeling far less often. A lot of this is due to the fact that we’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean, so watching people stand over a radar system is inherently less exhilarating than watching a lone soldier sprint for his life through a destroyed French town. But generally, the film felt far less frenetic, and it failed to get my heart rate up on more than one occasion.

The action in the back half of the movie, though, is a lot more solid, thanks to Hanks’ acting and some great cinematography choices. Krause’s weariness grows throughout the film, and every time we think he can sit down and catch a break, another U-boat makes its way onto the radar. Hanks maintains his character’s composure while also allowing quick moments for his frazzled delirium to be seen. Additionally, the film does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia of being on board. Shots of characters ducking through tiny doorways, scrambling down narrow ladders and squeezing past others on a narrow deck add a lot of tension to the combat scenes. The most riveting scenes make you feel trapped as the enemy approaches underwater. You hold your breath with the soldiers watching helplessly as a torpedo approaches, praying for a miss.

While it’s not a groundbreaking contribution to an already-overdone genre, “Greyhound” offers insight into the high-stakes journey the Navy undertook just to get supplies overseas. It’s a perspective I had never previously considered when thinking about the atrocities of the war, and the film’s tactical approach to the subject was both intriguing and, at times, thrilling. Clocking in at a well-paced 91 minutes, I’d say it’s worth your time if you’re looking for a bit of action and some light history to go along with it.

Final rating: 3.5/5

Featured image: Courtesy Sony Pictures

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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