Tom Hanks’s latest, Greyhound, is pretty much the ultimate Dad Movie. It features America’s Dad, Tom Hanks, in a role perfectly suited to appeal to America’s other dads: he’s the captain of a Fletcher-class Destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic, safeguarding supplies en route to aid in the fight against the Nazis. He says his grace (before meals he has no time to eat) and a prayer or two; he asks for slippers at one point, the better to go to war in.
Oh, and one more thing: he’s the lead in a blessedly short movie.
Officially 91 minutes but closer to mid-’80s sans credits, Greyhound —an Apple TV+ exclusive— is a lean, mean, streaming machine, the sort of movie that doesn’t fuss around with things like “backstory” or “emotional entanglements for supporting characters.” Frankly, Hanks, who wrote, and director Aaron Schneider, could’ve gotten it closer to a tight 80 minutes by ditching the scenes with Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), whose rejection of Captain Krause’s (Hanks) proposal of marriage opens the movie and gives him something to strive to return home to.
No, no: this is not a movie that is worried about love lost or abandoned or postponed, yet another casualty of war. Greyhound is a movie that cares about rudders and knots and torpedoes, one that cares about flares warning of U-Boat attacks and the difficulty of disposing of bodies at sea after they’ve been mutilated by torpedoes. Tastefully, of course: we never really see the bodies. The horrors of war are largely avoided except in the most general sense — Krause chastens one of his sailors for celebrating the death of 50 “Krauts”; those were still men with souls, after all, even if those souls were encased in lederhosen — and the mission’s justness never really comes into question.
Greyhound is, very simply, a movie about men at war and the tactics they use to win the battles that make up that war. Where ships should turn and at what speed. Deceptions by the enemy and how they must be countered. The difficulty of steering tonnage at speed on water. That sort of thing.
And in that simplicity is its effectiveness — indeed, its power. Hanks’s grimaces capture a range of emotion one might think impossible from mere furrowings of brows. An ill-timed sneeze at one point becomes a matter of life and death. Sure, the CGI oceans occasionally look like they’re ripped from really nice cut scenes out of high-caliber video games. Yeah, the pitching of decks is sometimes a bit too obviously done in front of green screens. But we move from scene to scene and torpedo to torpedo with such alacrity that we never think about it too much.
Those looking for something a bit more intense and interested in the emotional toll war can take on the individual — while still getting a large dose of battlefield tactics — would be better off taking in a picture like David Ayer’s Fury. Starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a tank…
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