This film harkens back to the 1940’s-1950’s WWII films like “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” “They Were Expendable,” “The Fighting Seabees,” etc. That were very heavy on action with little fuss made over an attached drama. The action was what was central, and “Greyhound” all by disposes of any need to fluff things up with families waiting at home. “Das Boot” is probably the best comparison to the model “Greyhound” chooses.
Having grown up during the 40’s and 50’s, WWII films were something I couldn’t relate to, but as I’ve matured and realized the incredible sacrifice these men and women made, I really value an effort to honor them. And Hanks has unquestionably played a large role in honoring those men and women who gave so much. His screenplay is driven by heart and the talent and detail and sacrifice included here is respectful and worthy.
It’s a short film, showing the peril of crossing the Atlantic and running the gauntlet of the German U-boat’s that were so simple and elegant in their effective deterrent of the Allied threat. The film doesn’t take much time in orienting the viewer to procedure and the eminent danger the large convoy faces. The use of narrative titles is helpful, but finally unnecessary. We’re witnesses to what happens, and as the film progresses we quickly get our bearings as to what the danger is and how the men on board the Greyhound perform their role in protecting a large merchant convoy suppling allied troops in Europe.
The toll this takes and the responsibility heaped upon the central character played by Hanks needs no real explanation. Any human life–due to his faith–is precious to him, and as the film moves forward he realizes his roll is to protect one side at all costs to the other. It’s an important detail. My father, a Marine in the South Pacific theater, couldn’t talk about the losses he inflicted on the enemy. While he bore resentment, he took no joy in taking any life. But this is a small detail in “Greyhound.” It’s focus is the action and skill it took to avoid being hit, and one excruciating moment when the Greyhound is put as a target of two triangulated torpedoes, shows the inevitability of warfare and the near impossibility of maneuvering the floating tonnage of a war ship on the rough open waters of the Atlantic. Whether or not they are successful, you’ll have to see the film. It’s spectacular.
Review by Michael Fargo