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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Greyhound review: Solid, dogged portrayal of battle processes

Tom Hanks’ performances habitually do not call attention to themselves. In this one, he goes even more minimalistic, literally battening down on his hatches, as he takes split-second calls.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta
Updated: July 11, 2020 9:39:52 am
Greyhound review Greyhound is streaming on Apple TV+.

Greyhound movie cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Josh Wiggens, Tom Brittany, Elizabeth Shue
Greyhound movie director: Aaron Schneider
Greyhound movie rating: Three stars

One of the most crucial long-drawn conflicts of World War II was the Battle Of Atlantic, which lasted nearly three years. Greyhound gives us a tiny slice of it, in this war drama based on a C S Forester novel, The Good Shepherd.

One of the first things you notice is that for a film of its kind, it’s surprisingly quiet. Yes, we hear the slap of the waves, the shouts of the soldiers, the boom of the guns, but the noise is not overpowering. There are pauses. In between the commands given to his crew by Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks), the tense engagements between the German U Boats and the Allied destroyers, the loss of men and material, and the close-shaves, we are given thinking time. Stands to reason because its leading man, a self-confessed World War II junkie, has also written the script. And in some ways, both author and script are alike: quiet and effective, without flourish. Greyhound is more a dogged, determined portrayal of the processes of battle– how the captain takes the hard-judged decisions, how they are relayed down the chain of command, how soldiers and their instruments work as one, how exhaustion beats down upon everyone, and how the enemy is always around the corner—than an epic.

Hanks’ performances habitually do not call attention to themselves. In this one, he goes even more minimalistic, literally battening down on his hatches, as he takes split-second calls: how huge ships can curve around another, both a few screaming inches away from each other is quite miraculous, and we find ourselves holding our breaths as this happens more than once in the film.

It’s the mark of great actors that they seem to be doing so little, and yet inhabit their roles quite so completely: as Krause, devout to a fault, flashing back to his beloved (Shue), kneels to pray, we see his blood-stained socks, a result of being on his feet in a yawing-and-pitching vessel for much too long. We know that he has been in pain only through the rare twitch on his face: in the rest, he is completely in control.

You wish the crew was more detailed; a back-story or two would have been nice. Except for an African-American head chef (Morgan) who keeps following the captain around with small-meals-on-trays that he (the captain) manages never to eat, a skilful tracker (Graham) of enemy subs under the cold, grey water (the film is almost fully grey, varying the palette with blue and black), and a couple of young ones who exchange fearful glances when their captain seems to be taking his time to veer away from danger, the others are just a collection of faces.

But this doesn’t take away from the solidity of the enterprise, even if we never seen the face of the enemy. The Germans, whose voice we hear booming on the tannoy, seems very Commando comic-like (you cannot get away from us! You are doomed!) are appropriately dastardly. We are left in no doubt whose side we are on: the good guys, who are all on board the ‘Greyhound’.

Tom Hanks-starrer Greyhound is streaming on Apple TV+.

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