If you only watch great movies, it’s easy to get discouraged. If you watch bad movies, you can be inspired to know you could do better. However, if you watch m mediocre movies, you can see what works and what does not work.
One of the latest mediocre movies is Tom Hank’s “Greyhound,” which is about a World War Two destroyer captain leading a convoy across the Atlantic to deliver supplies to England. The initial premise is interesting because its historically factual and promises lots of conflict with German U-boats trying to sink the convoy and the destroyers.
Where “Greyhound” falls apart is not in the action, acting, or story, but in the execution. “Greyhound” is all about action with almost nothing about emotion. The only character we care about is the hero, who’s leading a convoy across the Atlantic for the first time. As an inexperienced captain, his goal is to prove his competence.
However, he’s the only character we ever get to know or care about. When you focus solely on a single character, everyone else feels flat and two-dimensional, which weakens your story.
To make a hero more interesting, we need to see both the highs and lows of the hero’s emotions. Think of every great movie and at some point, the hero hits rock bottom before achieving victory.
In “Die Hard,” the hero has bleeding bare feet and tells Officer Powell over the radio to give his wife a message because he doesn’t think he’ll make it. That’s a low point.
In “Greyhound,” the hero never reaches any low point. Since this is his first crossing of the Atlantic, his low point should come when other people also suspect he’s not qualified to do the job.
Another way to tell an effective story is to have the hero’s struggles mirrored in other characters. In “Star Wars,” Hans Solo is just as flawed as Luke Skywalker, so they wind up helping each other.
In “Greyhound,” we never get to know the other characters other than as two-dimensional puppets. As a result, the hero never helps anyone and nobody really helps him either.
“Greyhound” is the type of movie that shows what happens when you fail to create interesting stories with the other characters who all want similar goals.
In “Legally Blonde,” the hero wants to find love and her hairdresser friend also wants to find love. In “Greyhound,” the hero feels pressure to do a good job during his first Atlantic crossing, but nobody else mirrors this same pressure, so this overall story is far weaker.
“Greyhound” isn’t a bad movie, but take away the interesting historical premise and the action, and there’s nothing left. By studying movies like “Greyhound,” it’s easier to see what they did right and wrong, and then make sure you don’t do that in your own screenplay.