Whenever audiences see Tom Hanks is playing a Captain – Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Captain Phillips – they know that it is not going to be plain sailing for America’s sweetheart. His latest film Greyhound is no exception.
Early in World War II, a U.S. Navy captain on his first command must lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic whilst being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks. Adapted from C.S. Forester’s novel The Good Shepherd, Hanks (who also writes the screenplay) trims the fat of the story and throws it overboard. Elements such as characterisation and backstory are jettisoned like ballast in favour of a streamlined action film.
Beyond a brief flashback of exposition dedicated to Captain Krause’s (Hanks) sweetheart, to show he has a reason to make sure he gets home, the film is set entirely within the confines of the warship. Director Aaron Schneider does an effective job of making the audience feel like part of the crew. Tight shots keep you in the heart of the action and increase the sense of claustrophobia. There is no escape, only the fight.
Once the bell rings calling the crew to general quarters, it is all hands on deck for a naval battle that runs full steam ahead, Mad Max Fury Road-style, for its 91 minute runtime. There is hardly a moment to catch your breath, let alone sit down and have something to eat – something which becomes a sort of running gag. A tense first act makes great use of the ship’s sonar to create tension while tracking the enemy submarine, a simple audio blip warning that danger is near. It is an effect expertly deployed in Alien and Aliens, and put to great use here, too.
Whilst the outer shell of Greyhound is undoubtedly a war movie, Hanks’ screenplay actually structures it as a horror film. It resembles Jaws, with the antagonist silently stalking the waters, occasionally coming to the surface to attack. As the battle intensifies, it becomes a ‘stalk n slash’ film. The “Grey Wolf” U-boat taunting and toying with Greyhound in a deadly game of cat and mouse… or wolf and hound. Picking off Hanks’ compatriots until the Greyhound essentially becomes The Final Girl.
With uncharted waters ahead for the cinematic and streaming landscapes, Greyhound is one film bound to make waves.
Greyhound is available on Apple TV+ now.