During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the common ways to watch movies is by watching them on a streaming service, instead of going to the movie theaters. In the last months, I have already covered movies that are available on Disney+ and Netflix, and now it is time to look at the music, composed by Blake Neely, from the AppleTV exclusive movie Greyhound. Neely has been composing for a long time, but I only got familiar with his music when he started to compose the music for several Arrowverse television shows. I have watched some early seasons from these shows when they came out, introducing me to some of his heroic themes, especially his themes for Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl.
Greyhound is a World War II movie about a ship convoy crossing the Atlantic to bring troops and cargo to the war effort in the UK. Within a period of several days, these ships are on their own without any air support, while being under threat of German submarines attacking. The convoy is protected by a handful of battleships, which are commanded by the captain of the battleship Greyhound, portrayed by Tom Hanks.
While listening to the music, I recognized one musical phrase and two recurring themes. The first theme is meant for the captain, which is a wonderful orchestral piece with long lines and has a feeling of tranquility. It portrays the captain more like a man, than a military war hero. You can hear the most extensive version of the theme in the almost ten-minute track “But At What Cost?” Since the captain is important for this movie, you keep hearing hints of this theme throughout the score, for example, in “First Crossing,” “I’ll Always Be Looking For You” and “Dog Watch.”
The second theme is more like a lament, representing the war casualties on both sides. A gorgeous version of this theme can be heard in “Lost Souls,” in which the melody is played on an oboe. You can also hear a small hint of it in ”First Kill,” played by the French Horn. At the end of “Distress Signal,” the theme melody is played by the strings. In “Out of Depth” the melody is supported by a superb rhythmic pattern, performed by the lower strings and is my favorite version of this theme.
As mentioned before, there is also a musical phrase that keeps reappearing, which represents the danger of the enemy submarines with a high, wailing and ominous sound. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of the sound that a whale makes, but darker. A hint of the sound can be heard within the first seconds of the score in “First Crossing.” Better versions of the noise can be heard in “Nightfall Dangers,” at the beginning of “Surrounded,” and a hint of it can be heard at the end of “It’s Not Enough.” The ominous sound is perfect for a danger lurking beneath, with the U-boats being the predators and the convoy being the prey. The main advantage of the wailing sound is that it can be integrated with ease into the other music, to give the audience the feeling of the U-boats’ presence, ready to strike, without seeing them.
The majority of the score contains hints to both themes, but most of the music has a supportive role to help set the mood and, more importantly, to provide an underscore for the action sequences. Where a lot of scores nowadays go for not overly complex drone sounds and percussion in case of such action sequences, Neely tries to keep the music fresh. Each track has a different kind of pattern, rhythm or melody going on to keep the music varied in sound. All the music is done by an orchestra, with some support of electronics, and with occasional metallic percussion sounds to represent the metal above and below the surface. You can hear examples of these in long action cues, like “Huff Duff,” “From Beneath,” “Here They Come,” and “Bring Hell Down From On High.”
The music for this movie, with tense moments and action sequences, is excellent. The movie is around ninety minutes long, and it looks like all the music, which is one hour and seventeen minutes in length, is added to the album. Listening to the long action sequences, while having various melodies and patterns, starts to tarnish my personal listening experience, as someone who prefers hearing thematic and melodic music. I think that cutting some cues down in size would make the whole soundtrack a tighter listening experience. But overall, the score is a solid example of using varied methods of different melodies, patterns and other musical ideas to keep the music fresh while supporting the actions on the screen, which is always the main focus of film music.
Listen or buy
The highlights are in bold.
- First Crossing (4:23)
- I’ll Always Be Looking For You (1:17)
- Huff Duff (6:35)
- From Beneath (9:12)
- First Kill (1:03)
- Distress Signal (2:57)
- Nightfall Dangers (4:47)
- Dog Watch (1:00)
- Surrounded (5:33)
- It’s Not Enough (3:02)
- Here They Come (2:14)
- Out of Depth (2:26)
- Torpedoes (6:09)
- Lost Souls (4:26)
- Ships Passing In The Night (3:10)
- Scrambled Message (2:02)
- Bring Hell Down From On High (6:51)
- But At What Cost? (9:40)
Total length: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Lakeshore Records (2020)