Tom Hanks takes command in Greyhound, an action-packed World War II naval thriller set during the Battle of the Atlantic. The film is adapted from C. S. Forester’s classic fifties novel, “The Good Shepherd.” Originally slated for a June 12th theatrical release, the estimated $50 million flick was sold by Sony Pictures to Apple TV+ because of the coronavirus pandemic. Greyhound marks the biggest acquisition yet for the fledgling streaming service. A strong lead performance from Hanks and crisp editing keeps the short runtime tense. The biggest drawbacks are the CGI visual effects. Greyhound often looks like a video game.
In the summer of 1942, the USS Keeling leads a convoy of thirty-seven Allied ships across the Atlantic. The destroyer has the call sign Greyhound. It is the first command for Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks), a career officer promoted after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The convoy has air support until reaching the Black Pit, the open sea where German submarines, U-boats, are waiting to strike. Krause wonders if he’s truly ready for the daunting mission. He relies on his stalwart Christian faith to guide him.
Sonar pings an enemy contact approaching underwater. Krause orders the Greyhound to advance and intercept. The destroyer rocks back and forth on the tumultuous, freezing sea. The men on board are nervous about their novice captain. First Officer Charlie Cole (Stephen Graham) keeps discipline in check. The Germans make their move. Six U-boats, a wolfpack of torpedo launching terror, targets the convoy. Krause engages in a ferocious cat and mouse strategy against the Germans. They taunt him over the radio as ships are sunk under their relentless assault. Krause must outwit the Nazis as the convoy tries to re-establish air cover.
Greyhound is seen from Krause’s point of view. He races back and forth across the bridge, bellowing orders; while getting constant updates. The destroyer is punished by rough seas. Seamen relay radar and sonar coordinates at a fever pitch. The U-boats slink in and out of range. Krause refuses to eat as he vigilantly searches for any sign of enemy contact. Greyhound succeeds in its depiction of war’s uncertainty and chaos. The Germans could be anywhere below. The men must rely on their training and equipment to find them. Tom Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, is in top acting form as usual. Krause exudes authority in critical moments. He gains the respect of his men.
The battle scenes are hit and miss. Director Aaron Schneider (Get Low) captures the intensity on the boat. He cuts sharply between the radar room, bridge, and outside gunners. Krause is fighting an unseen enemy using mathematical probability and intuition. There’s no room for error as the ship takes damage and casualties. Realism fades when Krause is outside in the elements. The ships, U-boats, and most importantly the ocean, look artificial. There’s a tremendous amount of detail to the visual effects. The problem is that they are clearly digital. The sea action looks computerized. This is especially evident in the climax of this Apple TV+ original.
Greyhound avoids the graphic violence of modern war films. There’s death and destruction, but little carnage. The supporting characters have no exposition. Their dialogue is present and in the moment of battle. Tom Hanks portrays heroism and calm under fire, not a bloodbath. He pays homage to the sailors who braved the Atlantic crossing. Greyhound hearkens back to old-fashioned patriotism and storytelling. The lackluster CGI does not torpedo the narrative. Greyhound is a production of Columbia Pictures, Bron, and Playtone. It will be available to stream July 10th on Apple TV+.
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