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Greyhound   rating

Review: written 2020

Immersive and detailed WW2 thrill ride


Tom Hanks latest release has been cruelly denied a cinema release, thanks to Covid – which is a shame, as the big screen is where this movie belongs. The story tells us of a captain on his first command, escorting his first convoy across the Atlantic in 1942, while a pack of enemy submarines hunts them, picking them off one by one.

The story really is that simple, it’s action, tension and agonising command decisions from the start to the finish. As such it is terrifically well done – it’s a part of the Second World War well worth exploring, and this movie does the believability and unremitting tension of such a trip justice. In doing so however, we don’t get much in the way of story or character development – only Tom Hanks is slightly fleshed out with a shoe-horned in pre-mission meeting with his sweetheart (Elizabeth Shue), and his nightly prayers and bible and literary quotations giving us any insight behind his captains exterior, to the three dimensional human underneath.


The emphasis is on action, and the captain’s responsibility of being a good shepherd to his flock of ships (The movie is based on the 50’s novel ‘The Good Shepherd’.). The Germans are never seen, only heard, giving them an almost cartoonish quality which belies the realism seen elsewhere. What we see is what the captain sees – this is from his viewpoint, so we spend much of our time on the bridge, barely even seeing elsewhere on the ship. And it’s worth noting that what we see has a faintly PG feel to it, compared to the horror stories from the actual Atlantic convoys. There is only fleetingly seen bloodshed, and we don’t see sailors retching oil from their lungs when rescued from the water, or caught in flames from burning oil – the horrors are mostly off screen, fed to the captain on the bridge verbally. The emphasis is on the action and tension and split-second decisions needed – the movie is interested in spectacle with a nod to the moral dilemmas of leadership, rather than plumbing the depths of character.

This is a welcome addition to the WW2 movie canon – I enjoyed it, though it felt a bit more like an adventure than a grim exploration of the horrors of war. As such, there is little emotional pay off at the end, merely the gift of being able to breathe again when the tension relents. Its full of the sort of detail which makes this a truly immersive heart pounding, but lacks the context required to engage the emotions.


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