Tag Archives: world war ii

‘Greyhound’ Review

Another day, another film that was meant for theaters going to streaming.

“Greyhound” is set during the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942, and follows an American escort ship captained by Tom Hanks (who also wrote the script) as it faces off with German U-boats. Rob Morgan and Stephen Graham also star as Aaron Schneider directs.

Originally slated for a May theatrical release, this film was sold to Apple TV for a whopping $70 million after coronavirus hit (if you think that is a lot of cash to pay just for distribution rights, this week Apple spent $105 million to acquire the Will Smith slavery film “Emancipation”). Apple is hoping this increases the worth of their digital library (their subscriber base is tracking behind what they initially hoped), and while “Greyhound” is not the next “Saving Private Ryan” I thought it was a very effective, tautly paced war picture.

Everyone loves Tom Hanks, and this was clearly somewhat of a passion project for him as it’s just the third feature script he’s ever written. Based on C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel “The Good Shepard,” this isn’t necessarily based on a true story, however it does depict a World War II conflict that doesn’t always get the screen time that its Western Front and Pacific Theater counterparts do. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, the commander of a destroyer, who is on his in the middle of his first command. Hanks, like everyone else here, doesn’t have much character development (there is a single flashback scene with Elisabeth Shue to try and add any amount of depth, and it was surely the easiest paycheck of her career), but his Everyday Joe likability makes us root for him.

Somewhat like “Dunkirk,” I think that we don’t get much detail or backstory on these characters because it is meant to drop us into that world and have the “this could be me, my son, or anyone” mentality. The supporting players, including Rob Morgan, Stephen Graham, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, all do solid work filling out this 1942 world, even if you don’t really bother to remember their names.

But who cares about character development; this is a war film! We’re here to see things go boom! And luckily the ship battle sequences deliver. This thing was shot on about a $50 million budget, pretty modest for the genre, and besides some wonky greenscreen sequences early on the staging and the effects are pretty effective. There are points you feel the emotional impact and scale of the events taking place (Hanks remarks after sinking a U-boat that those weren’t simply Germans they killed, it was “75 souls”), and one intense sequence racing against the clock and a leaking oil tanker really had me getting anxious.

Aside from the thin characters, the only real issue I have here is the leader of the German submarines continuously radios into Hanks’ ship to scold the Americans, and he comes off like a cartoon character in an otherwise moderately somber film.

“Greyhound” is certainly worth checking out if you have Apple TV, and at just 91 minutes it is refreshing to have a war film (or any movie, for that matter) that wastes no time getting into things and chooses not draw out its runtime for the sake of self-indulgence. In what has been a weird year overall and solid-but-not-great year at the movies, I think this film ranks among the best we’ve gotten in the first half of things, and at this point, like the Americans in World War II, we’ll take a win anyplace we can get one.

Critics Rating: 8/10  

Subtle Performances Elevate ‘The Exception’


Christopher Plummer’s lone Oscar was a career achievement award and I think the man has been criminally underrated in his career.

“The Exception” is a romantic drama set in the early years of World War II. The plot follows a young Nazi officer (Jai Courtney) who is sent to keep an eye on the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II (Plummer), only to fall in love with one of his maids (Lily James). David Leveaux makes his feature film directorial debut after a career in stage work.


I love me a WWII-set drama. Even when the films themselves may be a bit underwhelming (“Allied”), the setting and production design usually sucks me into what is one of my favorite time periods in human history. Things are no different here, as while certain aspects of the film fail to deliver as much as they’d like, the setting, and a subtly brilliant performance by Christopher Plummer, make this one worth checking out.


Like I said up top, although he finally won an Oscar for “Beginners,” I feel Christopher Plummer doesn’t get the love he deserves. He quietly steals the show in films like “Inside Man” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and the 87-year-old is masterful again here. Plummer brings a sense of warmth to the Kaiser and I cherished every scene he was in. He makes you sympathize with him without feeling pity, relate without empathizing.


Following a surprisingly solid performance in “Suicide Squad,” Jai Courtney again shows that perhaps he can in fact act after all. There’s a running joke that Courtney is a bland and charismatic-less actor who Hollywood has tried to shove down our throats following top billing in big-budget blockbusters like “A Good Day to Die Hard” and “Terminator: Genisys,”  but I have to hand it to Courtney: he does a surprisingly nimble job here. Playing a Nazi with dark past and conflicting loyalties, Courtney never over-acts or makes you roll your eyes, which at this point in his career is a compliment.


Mostly taking place in Wilhelm’s mansion, the production design is a solid recreation of 1940 Netherlands. German cars and Nazi banners roam the grounds while chipped paint and rusted bedframes fill the bedrooms; much like the film’s performances the attention to detail is subtle but appreciated.


Where the film falters is its execution of its narrative. The film reveals that there is a British spy somewhere on the grounds and it is Courtney’s job to find them; however instead of building to some great twist, the culprit is revealed in the first 20 minutes. The romance between Courtney and James never fully feels fleshed out or earned, either, as they share just a few scenes together and we are to believe they fall in love over several days simply because they slept together.


“The Exception” is far from the best World War II film (it’s not even the best WWII romance to be released in the past year) and it is certainly forgettable. Normally a romantic thriller that struggles with both its romance and its thrills would turn out to be a disaster; however if you appreciate the time period and some fine performances, including a stunning Christopher Plummer, then I think this film may be an exception to the rule.


Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Monuments Men’ a Big Bowl of Meh



            I personally love historical movies, especially those set in the 1940’s. Seeing as “The Monuments Men” is set in the end of World War II, and boasts an impressive cast that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray, it had all the makings of a fantastic film. Unfortunately, it does not live up to its lofty ambitions.

Directed by and starring Clooney, “Monuments Men” is the true story of a team of artists and architects assigned to find and protect paintings and statues that have been stolen by the Nazis.

The film was originally slated to be released in December of last year; however, it was postponed until this February in order to finish editing the special effects. When a film willingly bows out of Oscar season, it is usually not a great sign. And after seeing the film, my suspicions and worries were justified.

The movie is not awful, but it just falls short on almost every level it was striving for. The trailers implied it was going to be a blend of comedy and drama; that was in fact one of the reasons the movie was delayed, to properly edit the two genres. Every attempt at humor falls flat, or the scenes are just plain unfunny. This is hard to blame on the actors, who feature established comedians such as Murray and Goodman. Instead, the fault lies on the screenplay (written by Clooney and his production partner Grant Heslov), for writing jokes and one-liners that are as stale as a week-old sandwich.

The pacing and narrative are also a large issue. Because there are so many characters in the film, it is hard to feel any real connection to them; it also makes the story arch a little stretched, and thus slow. There are quite a few dull moments in this movie, most of them coming whenever Cate Blanchett’s French art expert is on screen. Her side story however is uninteresting and, for the most part, unneeded.

The film does have some positives. The chemistry between the star studded cast is at times entertaining to watch, and all the actors do seem to try their hardest. The production value and scenery are also very well-done, and at times you are immersed in the ruins of a bombarded, war-torn European city. It was also interesting to see the pictures of the real life Monuments Men at the end of the film.

Its ambitions are large and its intentions are pure, but “The Monuments Men” fails to be anything more than a history lesson, and more often than not it is a pretty boring one. If you are a lover of historical art and monuments, then this may be worth checking out once it hits video. Otherwise this is an ever-so-slightly entertaining, albeit forgettable, George Clooney vehicle.

Critics Rating: 5/10