Movie that ‘broke’ Tom Hanks’ heart

 

 

There's no getting around it, Greyhound should be seen in a cinema.

And it was originally meant to be.

The Tom Hanks World War II epic is a tight, disciplined war movie with some tense battle sequences, moving along at a propulsive pace. But it's also meant to be seen on a big screen with the killer sound system of a theatre experience.

It's no wonder Tom Hanks described, with almost alarming honesty (well, alarming to his "overlords at Apple"), the move from theatrical release to streaming was "absolute heartbreak".

It's a personal film for Hanks - he wrote the screenplay, adapted from the C.S. Forester book, The Good Shepherd.

Hanks plays a navy captain in command of a convoy of ships crossing the Atlantic from the US to the UK during World War II. The "Greyhound" in the title is the call-sign of his ship, which has been tasked with keeping the convoy (supply ships with goods and soldiers) safe from German U-boats.

It's a simple premise and over its 90-minutes run time, Hanks' Captain Ernest Krause must battle aggressive attacks from a Nazi "wolfpack" which taunts him over the radio, playing into Krause's already manifesting self-doubt.

 

Tom Hanks adapted the screenplay for a C.S. Forester book
Tom Hanks adapted the screenplay for a C.S. Forester book

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Greyhound is adept at portraying the tension of sustained attacks over two days, always on edge wondering where the next torpedo is coming from, and where every little decision has consequences.

Hanks is great - he has that authoritative, comforting demeanour anytime he puts on a uniform - but his character's insecurities are maybe too subtle, while the supporting cast which includes Karl Glusman, Rob Morgan and Stephen Graham don't have much to do.

Greyhound was to be released into cinemas last month until the coronavirus pandemic laid waste to those plans. With an ever-moving schedule and nowhere for it to land, its original distributor, Sony, looked around and took Apple's offer to buy it for $US70 million.

Greyhound cost $US50 million to make and hadn't really spent any money on marketing yet, so everyone was coming out ahead. And Apple got to spruik a high-profile Tom Hanks movie that's exclusive to its subscription streaming service.

Apple isn't the bad guy here, it's doing what it thinks is good for its customers, and Greyhound might actually reach a bigger audience on the platform than if it was dumped into cinemas at some point against a slew of competing movies that have all been yanked around.

 

Greyhound will be streaming at Apple TV+
Greyhound will be streaming at Apple TV+

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But was it the right thing for the experience of watching Greyhound? No.

This is a movie that would have greatly benefited from being seen in a cinema, where it would've been more immersive and gripping.

For one thing, the movie takes place entirely at sea, on a cold, steel ship surging through a blue-grey ocean, sometimes under the cover of darkness, with rare bursts of orange flames as German U-boats are sunk.

Greyhound's colour palette alone would've looked better in higher definition in a dark room, and you certainly miss the granular details of some scenes.

This a movie where the visuals, sound design and even its semi-claustrophobic atmosphere was made for a different experience to the one it will ultimately provide. The stretches where not much happens don't offer reprieve so much as give you time and space to be aware of those technical deficiencies and be underwhelmed.

There is a suspenseful sequence in which this hefty ship must pivot quickly and specifically to dodge two torpedoes coming at it from different angles would've been all the more impressive if it had been on the big screen.

If you can, if you have a 70-inch 4K TV, or know someone who does, watch Greyhound on that. It's your best bet.

Rating: 3/5

Greyhound is available to stream on Apple TV+ now

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as Movie that 'broke' Tom Hanks' heart


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