Four months have passed since most audiences have traveled to their local cinema to catch a new release film.
Ardent cinephiles have binged their way through the adventures of tiger kings, classic films, the latest miniseries to drop on streaming services and more in an endless quest for something new to watch.
And as they continue to spend less and less on a cinematic experience, expectations have gradually lowered as well.
Phrases like “I haven’t seen anything like that” are reduced to “I haven’t seen anything like that in a while” and what standards viewers have in terms of quality wane as their search for quantity continues.
Enter “Greyhound,” a film that should have all the hallmarks of crowd-pleasing, awards season fodder.
Led by cinema’s favorite everyman Tom Hanks, the Sony Pictures film acquired by Apple TV is a brisk 90-minute adventure across the Atlantic for World War II naval combat.
Based on the novel “The Good Shepherd” by CS Forester, “Greyhound” follows an Allied convoy carrying soldiers and supplies across the Atlantic in 1942 as the commander of an American destroyer codename Greyhound makes his first crossing while pursued by German submarines taunting him by day and attacking by nightfall.
The first 20 minutes are a hodgepodge of scenes that intend to orient audiences in the world of the film, littered with text explaining the risks of a cross-Atlantic journey, signals between ships and air support and to set the time and place. Intended as a device to save time, this often becomes an unnecessary distraction pulling focus from the events themselves.
A consummate performer who commands respect with his presence alone, Hanks is essential to a film that needs him to make the entire project even remotely worthwhile. From the opening moments, it’s clear that his Captain Krause will be the primary focus of the entire film and the only character worth focusing much attention.
Hanks has his best moments in pensive reflection of Krause’s actions – though these moments are fleeting – and his control as a new captain in combat reflects a steady outward persona marred by a relentless sense of heavy burden wearing on his mind.
Rob Morgan – a tremendous character actor whose compelling turn in “Just Mercy” is worth the price of that film alone – does a terrific job in a small supporting role as a mess hand trying to keep Krause fed, while the rest of the cast is so bland and ineffective that they blur into the background as Hanks bellows orders to nameless servicemen.
Action in “Greyhound” is alternatively thrilling and haphazard. Schneider creates some moments of intensity that pull viewers to the edge of their seats only to leave them longing for more.
Technically dense with military jargon and trigonometry, the “Greyhound” screenplay penned by Hanks himself adds to the circular feeling of the entire film as the plot loops in around itself chase by chase. The taut nature of a 90-minute feature keeps things moving, but Hanks leaves little room for explanation, reflection or character development with each passing naval engagement.
Additionally, “Greyhound” suffers from a geography problem. Schneider has trouble keeping the camera focused on perspective during combat, leaving viewers frequently vexed as to where the ship is located relative to the rest of the convoy and the pursuing U-boats.
While this is part of the struggle of the narrative, some of the dramatic tension gets released by not engaging audiences in the anticipation of inevitable attack. Viewers are thrust about narratively as Greyhound hunts down German submarines, often leaving audiences one step behind the fray.
As military films of the era go, “Greyhound” is a competent, yet unremarkable entry in the World War II genre, not rising to the level of David Ayer’s 2014 tank odyssey “Fury” nor Christopher Nolan’s all-encompassing epic “Dunkirk.”
For those in need of new content in the genre, however, Hanks’ lead performance and short run time make “Greyhound” something worth considering for home viewing by those who already have an Apple TV subscription.