In the Sony film, Greyhound — airing on Apple+ because all the best war movies premiere on struggling upstart streaming networks — Tom Hanks plays Commander Krause, a career officer and captain of the destroyer, the USS Keeling (call sign “Greyhound”). It’s Krause’s first wartime mission, and The Greyhound is being tasked with leading a convoy of 37 Allied ships across the North Atlantic. Set during World War II in 1942, a period of deep uncertainty in which an Allied victory was far from a sure thing, the film centers on the 50-hour window in the middle of the Atlantic where there is no air cover, leaving The Greyhould as the sole protector of a convoy being pursued by a wolfpack of German U-boats.
That is the premise of Greyhound, and honestly, there’s not much here beyond that premise. The destroyer travels across the ocean; it takes out some of the U-boats; the U-boats take out some of the ships; Tom Hanks barks a lot of incomprehensible naval speak. Chet Hanks has a line or two. Rob Morgan is inexplicably cast to bring Commander Krause a sandwich periodically, which Krause never has time to eat because he’s too busy barking incomprehensible naval speak at his sailor. Sometimes, one sailor dude will bark some coordinates to another sailor dude, who will repeat the coordinates to Commander Krause. One time, a sailor sneezed and couldn’t hear the coordinates being shouted at him, so he had to ask for them to be repeated. He’s nearly relieved of his duty for that sneeze. Character-wise, it’s one of the most exciting moments in the film.
That’s largely because there is no character development in Greyhound. The entire ship’s personnel is made up of red-shirts (and Chet Haze) who have no backstories or motivations of which to speak, other than a vague desire not to die (spoiler: A few don’t make it). Even Tom Hanks’ Krause is given little by way of personality. Before setting sail, Krause has a short scene with a vague romantic interest (Elizabeth Shue), who gives him a pair of slippers as a gift. After being on his feet for three days on the ship, those slippers sure do come in handy. Callback!
It’s remarkable how achingly slow a 90-minute movie with a lot of KABOOMs in it can be. It’s hard to blame director Aaron Schneider (Get Low), or even the CGI effects, which are more than adequate for a streaming movie. The problem really is that Greyhound is not a movie so much as it is $42 million version of watching someone play with ships and submarines in the bathtub. There’s no story here. The characters are nonexistent. Tom Hanks is a human, world-weary sigh, and Greyhound is a hull of a movie in desperate need of engine.