Based on the book “The Good Shepherd” by C. S. Forester, Tom Hanks has penned a screenplay adaptation entitled GREYHOUND, worthy of his many talents. He stars as Commander Ernest Krause, a U.S. Navy officer on his first war-time assignment in WWII. His destroyer, USS Keeling, codenamed “Greyhound”, is tasked with escorting convoy HX-25, consisting of 37 allied ships, across the Atlantic to Liverpool.
At a crisp 91 minutes, GREYHOUND never lets up on the excruciating terror of being hunted by the German Kriegsmarine and its vast numbers of U-boats. When first leaving shore, the ships are protected by military aircraft, but once in the open Atlantic, known as “the Black Pit”, the convoy’s only defense is the Greyhound and several other destroyers: two British, one Polish and one Canadian.
Director Aaron Schneider keeps the pace of GREYHOUND humming. With torpedoes flying from every angle, accompanied by a terrific soundtrack by Blake Neely, GREYHOUND is a thrilling war movie which kept me cringing --- and on the edge of my seat. The slick cinematography by Shelly Johnson adds to the overall nerve-jangling effect.
But without Hanks, GREYHOUND could have fallen by the wayside as just another WWII U-boat movie. It is Hanks who electrifies every scene with his presence. Let’s face it, he’s been at this a while, but he never disappoints as the unlikely hero. In a film like GREYHOUND facial expressions are paramount and no one delivers the goods like Hanks.
Whether he’s portraying a cargo ship’s captain in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) or an airline captain in SULLY (2016), Hanks gives each performance his best effort. Here, since he, himself, wrote the part, he transports the audience to a massive destroyer in the Atlantic Ocean as he matches wits with the leader of the
U-boats who calls himself Grey Wolf. Hanks’ Commander Krause is a formidable opponent for anyone.
Stephen Graham turns in an excellent portrayal of Krause’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Commander Charlie Cole. Often Graham finds himself playing the not-so-nice guy, but as Krause’s trusted advisor he shines. The rest of the cast, including Rob Morgan as George Cleveland, a mess attendant, and Elisabeth Shue as Krause’s paramour, must have taken their cues from Hanks…they’re all great.
You can currently watch GREYHOUND on Apple TV+. It’s well worth the effort, especially considering it’s all told in 91 minutes.
Opinion: See It Now!
Tom Hanks is not known as a prolific screenwriter, but he did write the screenplay for GREYHOUND. This is a new WWII movie about a U.S. destroyer desperately trying to survive German U-boat attacks in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early stages of the war, circa 1942.
Based on the 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd” by C. S. Forester, Hanks stars as Commander Ernest Krause in his initial command of a warship whose mission is to safely guide a fleet of merchant vessels to England. The Nazis, of course, had other ideas and once the Greyhound depletes its supply of depth charges to combat the German submarines’ torpedo assaults, the movie becomes a relatively tense cat-and-mouse game. One could say that GREYHOUND is a cinematic version of the old board game “Battleship” introduced by Milton Bradley in 1967.
At this point, the Greyhound is relegated to playing defense, with Krause authoritatively issuing directives into the ship’s intercom system, like “100 degrees full left”, to avoid an incoming torpedo. In one amazing scene one such torpedo is headed directly for the ship, but Krause’s maneuvers result in it merely grazing the hull of his vessel. Director Aaron Scheider adds to the suspense by chronicling the hours the crew is waiting for air cover from American planes, often in four-hour increments superimposed on the screen.
And certainly, Hanks being Tom Hanks, there is no dearth of realism in his character’s control of the ship. With an expert crew of young seamen with specific duties who occasionally make mistakes, Krause offers only words of encouragement. We get the feeling that he is a guy for whom these sailors would do anything, including risking their lives.
Just prior to Krause leaving on his mission, we meet his girlfriend, Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue in what amounts to a cameo), where the pair exchange Christmas gifts in an airport. Her present to him is a pair of embossed slippers which he eventually puts on even as he is directing battle orders. And Krause’s second-in-command is Charlie Cole (played by the always watchable Stephen Graham) who has his own set of expertise as the fight wages on.
Hanks was reportedly upset that this movie had been relegated to VOD. Nevertheless, GREYHOUND features superb cinematography, special effects, editing and music which are all spectacular. Kudos to Shelly Johnson, Marc Banich, Mark Czyzewski/Sidney Wolinsky and Blake Neely. If you happen to have a 110” wide screen in your home theater, the expert moviemaking will have you glued to your seat.
Most of the movie’s 91 minutes take place at sea in continuous battle mode. Full disclosure, I didn’t find the movie as suspenseful as Jeanne did, but I did find the interplay between officers and crew interesting as they try to keep their sanity in the most stressful of times. At one point I asked Jeanne “when do these guys sleep?” This question is answered at the film’s conclusion in an anti-climactic, but highly effective manner. Look for GREYHOUND on Apple TV+.
Opinion: See It Now!