Greyhound (Review)

There is a cold competence to Greyhound that turns its all action promise into an all monotony result. This is a film full of bombast, explosions and climactic battles. Most moments are all out war at sea, with a focus on specific details and with solid sound design. If you want to see things go bang in a historical setting – WW2 – this is the film for you. That is, if you only want that. However, by having no actual characters and by feeling so familiar, Greyhound just sinks.

World War 2 combat is such familiar territory for culture as a whole that every moment of Greyhound feels like an echo of something else. There are films that go for the all action approach that work spectacularly, though only because of containing novelty, imagination or by due to compelling framing. This has none of that and relies on the codes of the genre too heavily, with no twist or subversion. There may not be a film with this many naval battles in quick succession but you can only watch so many naval battles in quick succession – even if they sound impressive.

The aesthetic seems well realised and authentic (though the constrained setting and sheer repetition makes it dull), but there is also some shoddiness to the effects during larger scale sequences – though the film focuses more on fights from tight spaces. However, there is no sense of claustrophobia or effective tension as the pace is too fast. The cuts are too frequent to allow for sustained moments and there’s no wider elements to the script to fall back on. There are limp gestures at characterisation but, realistically, there are no stakes to the film bar it being WW2. This, again, makes it feel generic.

Tom Hanks’ starring role is also an issue. It is another faultless, heroic turn. You feel like he could have walked out of a number of different Tom Hanks films into this one. The film’s content is stuff you’ve seen before and the Hanks is overtly familiar too – it’s a yawn inducing combination. Hanks also penned the script, adapting it from a non-fiction source, so is perhaps somewhat to blame for deifying himself. It feels self congratulatory but mostly just boring. The bland and clichéd main character is another reason to disengage – and another thing that makes this so inessential.

There are impressive elements in Greyhound. The bombast is impressive and it delivers well produced action very frequently. It is all just so familiar and there is nothing in the framing that elevates it at all. It will certainly hit an audience for those who just want to watch Naval war (it does actually feel like a Battleships movie, with all the story and character of a game of Battleships), but it does so little for that audience and they are served so better elsewhere. However, if you want to hear a lot of people experimenting – to varying results – with accents, well, that part is fun.

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