Greyhound is a great pastime if you’re taking a class on World War II history or training in submarine warfare. Directed by second-timer Aaron Schneider and written by Tom Hanks himself, the 90-minute film is an informative if no less broad-strokes account of Naval war boat workflow, and features an almost-interesting character portrait from Hanks.
With such a short runtime and little time to invest in these people on board, Apple’s big acquisition suffers from what has often plagued many Netflix originals: an incomplete story. There are potentially riveting characters interacting and yet they’re given short shrift in favor of video-game-quality sea battles which, from a visual standpoint, play out repetitively. Rob Morgan’s dutiful chef, worrying over the captain’s lack of appetite, and Stephen Graham’s second-in-command try to pull focus to no avail. Schneider and the editors won’t let them. This is essentially a one-man show, even if Hanks is surrounded by other men. War movies demand emotional investment, particularly in character or consequence, and Greyhound doesn’t pretend to provide much of either. Poor Elizabeth Shue is saddled with the thankless role of a love interest at home who’s on screen for four minutes. For what few “character moments” there are, thank Hanks. He alone imbues Captain Krause with the necessary stoicism and furtive glances to suggest a backstory we’ll never know. All the legendary performer requires are two eyes to tell us he’s not as confident as the commanding outer exterior would have his men believe. By the same token, perhaps Schneider isn’t as lacking in skill as some shoddy CGI would have you believe. He can turn a screw pretty well, investing plenty in hair-raising cat-and-mouse games surrounding the titular ship and other boats, all acting as protection in a British convoy traveling across the Atlantic.
When the waters calm and the bullets cease, we listen to one phone call with Krause and we learn in hindsight just how impressive his command of the deck, his instincts and intuition, how gutsy he was in the face of unending pressure. Greyhound is no masterclass in suspense and it won’t move you like the best Dad movies often do, but Tom Hanks is ever-watchable.