In a time where civilization sucks harder than a nuclear powered Dyson vacuum, a new Tom Hanks movie feels like a gift. The fact it’s set during World War II is icing on the cake. It was a time when it was perfectly appropriate to punch a Nazi and America understood the power of sacrifice for the greater good. Then the internet broke everything; now, robots are fueling disinformation campaigns, empowering our dumbest, loudest citizens into fits of madness, and China is stealing our personal data, but kids are too busy doing 5-second dance moves for fake online points.
“Greyhound” is a very interesting movie—a tense, 90-minute action scene about a convoy of American ships trying to survive a 50-hour trek through “the black pit” of the Atlantic. Nazi U-boats patrol and pick off transports and freighters. Hanks plays a ship commander in charge of hunting and destroying German submarines and keeping the much-needed supplies safe. He is responsible for the lives of those on his ship and every other defenseless ship he has been tasked to protect.
Director Aaron Schneider does an excellent job creating nail-biting scenarios, detailing the absolute madness of trying to track down and destroy enemy submarines. The logistics of these kinds of conflicts take a crazy amount of teamwork and are hampered by stormy seas and limited visibility. The film is more like a naval battle simulator than a traditional narrative film. We get a pinch of background before venturing into the world of the Greyhound and the gauntlet they endure. It’s a thriller devoid of characters—a sensory experience that transports the viewer into this unforgiving landscape.
Every so often we get a movie that manages to capture lightning in a bottle—like the comedy classic “Groundhog Day.” A brilliant film from Harold Ramis, it features Bill Murray at his absolute best. The idea of having to live the same day over and over felt unique. While the scenario has been occasionally recycled and analyzed, few movies have been able to use the concept in an engaging way. And then “Palm Springs” came along.
Sarah (Cristin Milioti) is attending her sister’s wedding and meets a carefree, strangely connected guest, Nyles (Andy Samberg). After hitting it off, they venture into the rocky surroundings of the desert for a drunken romantic rendezvous. Then Nyles is struck by an arrow and takes off, as he’s being pursued by a crazed hunter. They both flee into a mysterious cave. Sarah follows, and the next thing she knows, she wakes only to relive the same day when her sister was married. No matter how she tries to defy the laws of quantum physics to escape—jumping in front of an 18-wheeler, driving to her home in Austin, TX—she is trapped reliving the same day.
She confronts Nyles, only to find out he’s stuck in the same repeating loop. They decide to have some fun within this perpetually resetting world that goes on repeat every time they go to sleep or die. Immortality can be fun!
Yes, “Palm Springs” is highly derivative of “Groundhog Day,” but the rom-com dynamic brings a new ingredient to the recipe. Plus, Samberg and Milioti are pure gold. Eventually, the movie tries to carve out its own original territory into a well-worn concept. Sarah is determined to figure out how to free herself from this infinite prison, even if it means never seeing Nyles again.
I liked “Palm Springs” for a number of reasons. First, it does a great job of taking something familiar and adding something new. Its meta deconstruction is interesting. The idea that multiple people can be trapped in the same time loop feels fresh. The script by Andy Siara smartly examines how different people would react to this impossible scenario.
Second, the cast is excellent. Milioti, Sandberg and JK Simmons are so damn likable. “Palm Springs” is easily one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of 2020.