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War Action / English / 2020

I was intrigued by Tom Hank's Bridge of Spies, which I never saw, but it turns out he went and wrote a screenplay to an entirely different wartime period piece, this time as a naval captain embattled with enemy submarines. I like Tom Hanks, I'm interested in war history, let's do it.

I don't know what it is about ships and trains, but these huge, relatively slow, often claustrophic, and generally archaic forms of transportation are just very interesting settings to a tell a story. The concept of a closed eco-system developing on a moving train as in Snowpiercer definitely had potential, it's just a shame that movie sucked. In a similar vein, movies like Hunt for Red October and Greyhound are interesting because, as in Dunkirk, the characters are effectively trapped in a relatively fragile metal coffin above or beneath the waves of an ocean that doesn't care about your god, and you have what little fuel, ammunition, morale, and intel to maneuver through hostile territory before meeting Davy Jones.

I read that this movie had "little character", but was brisk with the action, and that is definitely true. About the only character we spend any meaningful time with is Captain Tom Hanks himself, playing the man who refuses to sit or eat until he sees the job safely done.

The job here being the lead military escort of a convey of supplies through submarine-infested waters without valuable air support. True to the promise, the action comes on fast, and like a ship breaking on the waves, it bops with each encounter with enemy vessels. Unlike Dunkirk, it doesn't dwell for long stretches of time, it doesn't tell an anachronistic story, or try to engage me in dog-eat-dog drama. It's just, someone calls out a contact off the starboard bow AND WE'RE ALL IN BABY, LET'S DO THIS.

Now if I have any grievance with the action, it's going to be that it ultimately amounts to a lot of Tom Hanks running back and forth from opposite sides of the bridge to look out at waves of nothing with only the hint that a sub may be there. It's still exciting, but it does get little bit tiring, especially at the beginning before the fleet of subs emerge into view. Much of the dialog is communication between the ships protecting the convoy, the sonar guy, Capn' Hanks and his immediate staff. They convey a lot of information very quickly, and if you're unfamiliar with some of the naval lingo, it's easy to lose track of where the subs are purported to be. I appreciated one character's translation of "screws" to "propellers", which helped establish that when the sonar guy said "too many screws" he meant he was getting interference from the sounds of propellers in the vicinity, which inhibited his ability to clearly articulate the sounds of hostiles from friendlies. Other elements like the exact quantity of subs they were detecting was also fuzzy because of this dialog, but a rewatch may clear that up.

I liked the increasingly overt theme of the submarines representing a "wolfpack", trailing and picking off vulnerable members of the herd over time. They really come off as an invisible predator of their own, eternally deadly, because their torpedoes are only barely visible and provide a damningly small amount of time to turn such a big target out of it's line of fire. It's surprising to me that a ship like the Greyhound would even plausibly be able to take on a sub, but maybe I'm just operating by Advance Wars logic. I'm thinking of these ships like Battleships when I should be thinking of them like Cruisers.

The sound design of this movie was strange, but I also liked it. They have a pumping action-horror soundtrack and the subs are accompanied by what I can only describe as a cross between a prolonged orchestral sting and and a whale sound. It's some awful artificial scream that further makes these ships seem like animals, and I liked the mood that they added, however distracting I imagine their inclusion would be for anyone actually experienced in naval combat.

The CG was noticeably aggressive in this movie which is a definite strike against it which I wouldn't give to Dunkirk. And that seems to me to be a particularly rough aspect to stumble over considering this is marketed as an "Apple Original Movie", a company which prides itself on the visual fidelity of it's products. The motion blur during panning ocean shots seem to be the worst offender here.

I didn't care for the religiosity of Hanks' character, but it was thankfully brief, and not to crap on Hanks by referring to his character as Hanks, I genuinely do appreciate that every movie I see him in, no matter how recognizable he is, he manages to slip into the role and come off as somebody distinct from Woody from Toy Story, or Viktor from The Terminal, or Miller from Saving Private Ryan. Even if his character isn't wholly fleshed out as in those other movies.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Greyhound is it makes me want to read the book it's based on, cause I imagine a lot of the minutae about operating the ship and locating and combating the subs was glossed over for the purposes of the of a standard runtime.

I really did enjoy this movie and I think the only thing I wish I got more of was the specifics about operating the ship. I imagine it sort of in the vein of Treasure Island, which, for all of it's adaptations, often obfuscates the worldbuilding that was present in the book and consequently popularized the pirate genre.

I may give this a better rating on a rewatch, but for now I think it deserves a solid

Final Verdict: