Greyhound Review (On Apple TV+)

October 19th, 2020

Greyhound tells the tale of Commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) of the US Navy and his first command during World War II. Based on The Good Shepherd, by C.S. Forester, Greyhound is a fictional story inspired by a non-fictional event, the Battle of the Atlantic. Commander Krause is captaining the USS Keeling (radio call sign Greyhound), one of four ships escorting a thirty-seven ship convoy, which is carrying supplies to the Allied forces in England. 

The film opens with a short exposition, revealing the details of the setting as well as providing a background on Commander Krause. Following the exposition, the story cuts to the convoy as they are three days into the “Black Pit” (the Mid-Atlantic gap where they are out of range from protective air cover). 50 hours away from recommencement of air cover, the first report of a nearby U-boat comes in. From here on, there is little break in action and suspense. 

As the battle goes on, the skepticism of the crew towards their first time commander is almost tangible. Since much of the dialogue is filled with nautical jargon and the crew never voices their doubt (keep in mind the naval hierarchy), the audience must look elsewhere to pick up on the crew’s wariness; it manifests in a variation of meaningful looks to noticeable delay in the following of Commander Krause’s orders. Commander Krause’s characterization comes into light as in response to his crew’s lack of faith, rather than reassert himself as the captain of the convoy, he begins to doubt himself as well. 

With little personal dialogue or interactions, Hanks’ ability to bring his character to life does not fail to impress. Employing methods of unspoken communication, he allows the audience to have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of his character. 

While the lack of focus on the stories of the crew themselves could be a turn off for some, I personally found beauty in the simplicity of it. Though it is unlikely that you grow a personal attachment to the characters, it does not stop you from rooting for the convoy’s success against the German U-boats.

Palm Springs Review (On Hulu)

October 12th, 2020

Palm Springs is a perfect film for those of us who feel stuck in a rut, due to the monotony of our lives during the COVID pandemic. With the film’s leads stuck in an infinite time loop, they are quite literally living the same day over and over. 

Taking place at a vanilla wedding in Palm Springs on November 9th, we watch Andy Samberg’s character, Nyles, and Cristin Milioti’s character, Sarah, as they live their lives like there’s no tomorrow (because there isn’t). While it’s unclear exactly how long Nyles had been stuck in the loop by the time Sarah joined his fate, judging by the number of experiences and different November 9’s he’s lived, it can be inferred that it’s been a lot. At first Sarah struggles to swallow her new circumstances, but eventually she accepts it and the pair go on to spend countless loops doing whatever they want. 

And let us not forget about Roy. On one of his earlier loops, Nyles, in a drug-induced haze, led his fellow wedding-attendee to the vortex in the cave that got him stuck in the loop in the first place. Though Roy is introduced as a sadist, hellbent on getting revenge on Nyles, eventually Roy makes his peace, gives up on his revenge, and spends each loop with his family. 

In addition to the tangible chemistry between Sarah and Nyles, the supporting characters of the film, and the side plotlines that come with them, add both substance and hilarity to the film.  

A common flaw in films dealing with time travel, or in this case time loops, is these sci-fi elements can become distracting to the plot. However, in Palm Springs, the facts and details of the time loop are revealed organically as the movie goes on. Palm Springs is a refreshing change of pace to the stereotypical storyline that is usually followed by rom-coms. The ninety-minute Hulu original leaves you wanting more of the wonderfully, imperfect characters you had just gotten to know.

The Social Dilemma Review (On Netflix)

October 5th, 2020

“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” The Social Dilemma opens with this Sophocles quote and throughout the film its relevance becomes increasingly clear. The Netflix original film focuses on the effect of social media on society and the moral implications of the technology companies in control. The docu-drama bounces back and forth between testimonies of former employees (generally senior employees such as heads of departments) and a fictional American family that is used to give a practical exhibition of the effects. The issues discussed in the film, regarding social media’s impact, include damage to users’ self-esteem and manipulation of users’ manner of thinking. 

The issue of self-esteem is touched on through the use of statistics that show the rise in teenage depression and suicide, as it correlates to teenagers beginning the use of social media. Within the fictional family, the eleven-year-old daughter struggles with hurtful comments on her posts that cause her to fixate on her appearance. The issue of manipulation of users’ manner of thinking is a larger focus. 

This topic begins with a discussion of how social media and technology companies partake in surveillance capitalism, where users’ behavior is surveilled and then analyzed to determine how to maximize engagement and growth of the platforms (Have you ever had an in-person conversation, with your phone nearby, and then later you’re shown content of things you discussed earlier?) From there, it jumps into the topics of the spread of misinformation and the polarization of the world, going on to explore and explain how these platforms can be used by governments and/or bad actors to manipulate the public’s perception and spread propaganda. 

The Social Dilemma was very well-done and eye-opening to the effect of tech companies’ prominence in today’s society; many of those interviewed share the view that this issue alone could be responsible for the tearing of the fabric of global democracy. The documentary and dramatized elements were seamlessly intertwined, with a clear connection between the topics discussed by the interviewees and the events revolving the fictional family. I, also, could relate to a lot of what was said in regards to the manipulation of users. For example, if I don’t go on Twitter for a few days I’ll get a notification with a tweet recommended for me and I never thought much about it. The film mentioned how this is a tactic used by tech/social media companies to control its users and encourage engagement. 

The film is a strong case for the importance of this issue and its relevance in today’s climate. In addition to the polarization of the nation, it talks of the rise of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s opening a necessary dialogue on the lack of ethics and regulations within the industry.