Film: Action is as Action Does

The pure action film is sui generis.

by Michael Bergeron

Take a bunch of movies and divide them by quadrant. While films operate to some degree or another on a principle of theatrical engagement the action film is the genre that most demands the big screen to achieve its strenuous high.

Which brings us to “Greyhound.” There were so few films actually released in theaters last year you could count them with the fingers on one hand.

“Greyhound” never got its big screen moment to impress as its studio Sony sold it to Apple TV+. While generally well received in its living room engagement the larger aspects of a theatrical release were sadly not realized.

Testset attended a virtual Zoom press conference with the creative team behind the production.

“The sale to Apple didn’t occur until we were half way through the digital intermediate,” says Director of Photography Shelly Johnson. “We were lined up for a June 12 release and then things switched over.”

“Greyhound,” spearheaded by writer (adapting from the novel by C. S. Forester) and star Tom Hanks places the audience with a cross-the-Atlantic escort group during WWII. After some perfunctory scenes establishing Hanks, as stoic Captain Krause, dining with his wife (Elisabeth Shue, the only woman in the film), the rest of the running time pits the crew of the USS Keating against German U-boats during a three-day period when the convey sails out of the range of protective air cover.

The film utilizes a combination of studio sets mixed with footage lensed aboard the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Kidd, docked as an attraction in Baton Rouge, and seamless CGI. One of the most impressive shots shows the expanse of ocean at night and the entire convoy in the midst of battle only to have the point-of-view pull back and rise to an impossible height where we witness the aurora borealis sparkling above the manmade mayhem.

Visual effects supervisor Nathan McGuinness notes, “The scale and the impact on the big screen was amazing.”

Johnson adds: “Seeing that film on the big screen was a very different experience. I asked myself at that point if we had known ahead of time would I have done anything different from a photographic standpoint. I don’t think I would have. “Seeing it on the big screen you see so many details like the uniforms or the patina on the ship.

“There aren’t a lot of personal scenes, Tom wrote the script with this rotation of characters as they move in and out of the pilot house. He’s consistently there and there’s that relationship and how they communicate as a group.”

“Greyhound” offers Hanks a challenging role and his conflicted Captain offers a better star turn that his current role in “News of the World.” Expect some guild and Oscar recognition for the sound and special effects.

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