“Greyhound” Movie Review

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     Director Aaron Schneider’s “Greyhound” is a thrilling exercise in wartime tactics and white knuckle intensity.  At a scant 91 minutes long, we join Captain Ernest Krause, played by Tom Hanks with all of the professionalism and esprit de corps of a true veteran, as he guides a Navy Destroyer charged with protecting a ship convoy traveling across the Atlantic during World War II.  More of a depiction of a singular event in history than an actual story, the film is based on C.S. Forester’s novel “The Good Shepherd”, with Hanks also supplying the adaptation for the screen. 

     “Greyhound” was set for an early summer theatrical release, but given the circumstances we are currently living in with no movie theaters, the studio chose to sell the film to Apple TV+ for distribution on that platform.  Such a shame since this is exactly the kind of film that demands to be seen on the big screen. Nonetheless, if there was ever a time to sign up for an Apple TV+ subscription, it would be now.  Recent war films like “The Outpost” and classics such as “Saving Private Ryan” have succeeded due in part to the realistic and visceral experience they deliver.  “Greyhound”  excels in much the same way, instantly transporting the audience to the treacherous Atlantic waters of 1942, where danger lurked and heroes were born.

      The film opens with a series of titles which set the stage.  In a significant aspect of the war effort, a coalition of Naval ships is charged with leading and protecting a convoy of supply ships making the trek across the Atlantic from the United States to the battlefield in Europe.  And lying in wait, beneath the surface of the ocean, is a pack of Nazi U-boats, looking to stop them from reaching their destination.  With the length the convoy must travel, air support, which is crucial for spotting and destroying enemy subs, is limited in range, meaning the convoy must drive on for over two days before receiving air support from the other side.

     Hanks and Schneider haven’t crafted a pillar of character development, nor do they tell the story utilizing the standard three act format.  An opening scene gives us a glimpse into Krause’s personal life, as he meets a woman we presume to be his girlfriend, Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), at a ritzy hotel where he tells her he is about to receive his first command.  That scene transitions directly to the convoy, where Krause is already in position as commander and is in the beginning stages of his first trip across the Atlantic.  To protect the more than two dozen supply ships, he has at his disposal his own Destroyer, the U.S.S. Keeling (call sign Greyhound), as well several other ships that hail from different countries within the Allied coalition.

     The action picks up at the point where the convoy’s air support turns back, leaving every ship vulnerable to attack by Nazi U-boats hunting them, with only the weapons and tactics of the Keeling and the other Destroyers available for protection.  In what is known as the Battle of the Atlantic, it isn’t long before the Nazi’s begin to fire on and sink several ships within the convoy in a battle that rages on day and night for over 48 hours.

     As much as this film could’ve actually played quite well as an adaptation of the “Battleship” board game (no offense to Peter Berg’s 2012 film), “Greyhound” wants to bring you directly into the mind of Krause and the enormous responsibility he has to protect the entire convoy by any means necessary.  To accomplish this, Krause doesn’t eat or sleep, spending his time on the ship’s bridge barking out orders, looking through binoculars for signs of the enemy, and conversing with his people who are constantly monitoring radar and sonar for the slightest indication of enemy presence.  This may sound tedious to some, but many will find the technical details, tactics, and strategy to be fascinating.  And just when you think they may have a break, a torpedo is launched out of nowhere, heading directly for the Keeling and visualized through a number of aerial shots that show just how small the margin for error actually is.

     When your’e an accomplished actor like Tom Hanks, it would stand to reason you would want to continually challenge yourself with roles that will push the limits of your abilities.  In playing Krause, Hanks initially gives us the kind and reserved personality we’ve seen so many times from him, but once the action begins, he’s all business.  You may never see a film about a singular commander so incredibly dedicated to his craft.  There are no conversations.  Only instructions and orders that require immediate feedback from those in his charge.  Life and death decisions are made in the blink of any eye, as the survival of the entire convoy consistently hangs in the balance.  The film is quite a workout for the senses. GRADE: B+