The aspect of myth comes down in many ways to the notion of metaphor versus what might be going on in the actual world. In times of war, it becomes an interesting motif since it tends to reflect more in the idea of escapism. With a story like “Summerland” which is set during World War II in a small town near the Cliffs Of Dover, it becomes more about the texture of acceptance and perception. It is the story of a woman who lives her life alone for a reason, burned in a way by love, which leaves her alienated just as much by the circumstance as she is by the time. Gemma Arterton who rose to prominence in large scale films like “Quantum Of Solace” and “Clash Of The Titans” devotes herself more to character work here. Her foil in many ways is two-fold. One is in the past with Gugu Mbatha-Raw who plays Vera and Lucas Bond who plays Frank in her present day. Because of the war and children being shepherded away from London because of the Blitz, Alice ends up taking care of Frank because of an edict to take in children displaced. “Bedknobs & Broomsticks” used a similar construct.
The relationship starts off as all similar situations do but these two disparate yet similar souls start to teach each other about acceptance. However, the idea of masks and perceptions begin to take a toll. There is an earnestness and a ease to the relationship as it is balanced with the flashbacks to Alice & Vera spending times together (which honestly is portrayed more as dreamlike — but that might be Alice’s remembrance since the movie is primarily from her POV). What gives the movie a bit of edge is having Frank have a young friend, both open minded and yet close, precocious and yet piratical in Dixie Egerickx’s Edie who is able to walk a thin line of a girl independent but still of that age. It is a maturity which is both effective and yet unrefined in a good way in terms of acting style. The story of course to a head in terms of perspective and sometimes resorts too readily into melodrama. Also the film is bookended to give a sense of completion which is alright but in may ways too neatly packed. The overall myth of a floating city and how that keys into the psychology of the characters, grasping at a peace just beyond their fingertips which they can’t reach, is an apt metaphor and keys into the greater themes of the film.
By Tim Wassberg
Tom Hanks’ affinity for World War II is well known and of course his integration both in documentaries and on the big screen speak for themselves which becomes an interesting quandary and question with the film “Greyhound” premiering on AppleTV+. In one way, it is a great move and completely in line with AppleTV+’s programming while injecting it with star power. AppleTV+ is more sophisticated in certain ways than the Netflix approach but each has its strengths. With “Greyhound” which details a crossing of the Atlantic corridor during World War II, Hanks plays the captain of a ship (called “Greyhound”) whose job it is to oversee and in a way cut off attacks on the ships (including the supply chain) by elusive U-Boats. The film has a breakneck pace which is meant to show the dynamics and feel of such a crossing. Unlike “Midway, it is much more insular, the editing and dialogue much tighter but it requires attention since the dialogue points to strategy. This is the first film Tom Hanks has written since “Larry Crowne” and only the 3rd overall. He knows what he wants to do and is efficient…perhaps too efficient since the film comes in at only 90 minutes. But because of that breakneck speed it captures what “U-571” didn’t quite do: the frenetic tension of possibly being attacked at all times. This reviewer found himself thinking of the way “Twister” as a film worked many years ago and that is a compliment. That film was based in action but knew when to speed up but then slow down just enough that you got a true sense of the characters. This is undeniably true here without fail.
The biggest issue is that, as Hanks has said, it was made for the big screen to be seen in the darkened theater especially with many of the storms and night scenes of strategy. This is true but who is to say that as many people would have seen it in a theater. “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” was good and a character piece but it is hard to compete with mega blockbusters. “Greyhound” is a movie that in the late 90s and early 2000s would have cleaned up. It is an interesting quandary. But what remains the same despite any of these discussions is the quality of the film. It is not overtly deep but is an action and character piece which literally takes place in a couple rooms. Granted years ago this could not hae been made since it is almost completely digital in terms of the surrounding CGI. This kind of film is perfect in terms of progressing the style that “The Mandalorian” has pioneered with The Volume. It opens the path to these worlds I would think in a period context even more. This writer was on a press trip visit one or two years back when “Greyhound” was being shot in Baton Rouge. It had just wrapped so it did take some time in post production versus say The Volume which is all in camera.
“Greyhound” is that great discussion for creative evolution though it requires letting go a little of the old in service to the audience. Again “Greyhound” develops some great surrounding conversations. It hopefully just as a film doesn’t get lost in the discussion. Hanks steers the ship while his director (Aaron Schneider) who before this was known for the Robert Duvall period film “Get Low” shows a steady hand probably buffered by Hanks. That might have been interesting exercise all around since it seems like many of the supporting players may have been locals around Louisiana. It might have had a masterclass exercise to him. Stephen Graham who has worked multiple times with Guy Ritchie plays Hanks’ XO and, like Sam Neill to Sean Connery in “Hunt For Red October”, works quite well in creating a solid base dealing with both perception and perspective. “Greyhound” is an efficient, entertaining, tense, sophisticated and also educational perception into the idea of this war by placing you in the seat, outside of the modern day contrivances. In that final moment of rest, it shows the dexterity of a captain but also the impact that one crossing could make.
By Tim Wassberg