Debuting exclusively on Apple TV+ following a remarkable $70 million deal, Greyhound marks the return of Tom Hanks’ to a World War II setting, following Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Bridge of Spies. Based on CS Forester’s 1955 fictional war novel “The Good Shepherd”, the film shines a light on the unsung heroes of the Battle of Atlantic, which proved one of most hostile battlefields of the Second World War. With the much loved Hanks firmly at the vessel’s helm, who else would you want to steer your ship to safety in this highly anticipated action-drama!
Directed by Aaron Schneider and written by Tom Hanks, Greyhound centres on US Navy Commander Ernest Krause’s debut mission as captain of the USS Keeling. Set in the winter of 1942 during the height of WWII, the crew is tasked with an impossible mission of protecting a 37 strong convoy carrying thousands of soldiers and vital supplies across the dangerous waters of the Atlantic, known as “the Black Pit”. With no air cover for five days and Nazi U-boats hot on their heels, the captain and crew of the three escort ships face a race against time to protect their precious cargo. Can they defy the odds and make it out alive?
Counting down the watches to when air support returns, Greyhound brings to life the treacherous battle between Allied ships and German U-boat submarines in a test of endurance. This much overlooked naval battleground plays out as a long game of strategy, featuring differing tactics such as intercepting enemy intelligence, key evasive manoeuvres and mechanical decoys. Nautical warfare isn’t as fast paced as terrestrial battles, it’s much more of a slow burn wait, but Schneider expertly establishes a building sense of dread throughout. Due to the labour involved with implementing and coordinating naval commands, this setting makes for a much more stressful and claustrophobic environment than in air and on land, particularly in the often cramped and close quarters. Due to the confined setting, you cleverly feel immersed into events as they unfold with the captain and crew, quickly finding yourself gripped.
With the stealthy German U-boats, known as ‘wolfpacks’, planning their attacks with the advantage of surprise, the film does at times enter thriller territory. The eerie quiet between offensive ambushes fills you with a growing sense of anxiety, particularly as the enemy cruelly taunts them over the radios. Coupled with this, the crew experience a number of complications down to the cold, stormy weather – adding confusion and disorientation when attempting to distinguish their own ships from the enemy.
Returning to the captaincy role following Sully and Captain Phillips, this is prime Hanks. His portrayal of Krause is strong but sensitive; with his first voyage commanding the destroyer, he’s trying to prove himself worthy to lead the vessel. Compassionate and clearly caring greatly about his crew, he won’t stop to eat during his command and continues to lead even though his feet are bleeding. Stephen Graham also shines as the commander of the combat information centre, along with Rob Morgan as the ship’s chef.
But with a streamlined 90 minute runtime, there’s unfortunately little in the way of character development or much depth to the sailors. Schneider and Hanks should have spent a bit more time fleshing out the crew characters to make their efforts and sacrifices feel that much more meaningful, along with Elisabeth Shue’s brief turn, particularly as she’s the sole female performer.
The exhilarating, edge of your seat battle sequences are the film’s main highlight, featuring impressive explosions down to the use of torpedos, depth charges and various other artillery. A particular highlight is an intense head-to-head showdown between the destroyer and a U-boat, with the crew finding themselves in a perilous situation, staring down two torpedos from opposite directions. The score, composed by The Pacific‘s Blake Nelson, excellently heightens the suspense between attacks, with wide shots of the stormy, expansive stretch of open sea highlighting the ships vulnerability. Filmed largely aboard the USS Kidd, a decommissioned WWII-era destroyer, the vessel provides a fittingly claustrophobic setting, adding a real authenticity to the film.
Chronicling an often forgotten WWII naval battleground, Greyhound is a tense and gripping action drama impressively lead by Hanks. It’s a shame that the delayed release date eventually lead the film to Apple’s streaming service due to the current pandemic, as this would have been a fantastic experience on the big screen. Many courageous and brave men’s efforts were overlooked ensuring the vital cargo’s safe arrival in Europe over the years, but the movie provides a fitting and emotionally moving tribute to those involved.
Directed by: Aaron Schneider
Written by: Tom Hanks
Cast: Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Karl Glusman |