‘GREYHOUND’ is a war movie starring Tom Hanks and he himself wrote the screenplay based on the 1955 novel of C.S. Forrester, “The Good Shepherd”. It was meant to be released in theaters last June but due to the pandemic, it is now showing on Apple TV.
As a teener, we’re a great fan of World War II movies like “Guadalcanal Diary”, “Three Came Home”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, etc. And there’s a special genre of war films set at sea, the submarine films and our favorites then were “Up Periscope”, “Torpedo Run”, “The Enemy Below”, “Run Silent Run Deep”. More recent claustrophobic films of this sort are “Das Boot” and “Hunt for Red October”.
“Greyhound” is the codename of USS Keeling, a destroyer assigned to escort various allied merchant ships going to Liverpool in England during the Battle of the Atlantic in early 1942. They’re cruising along with three other destroyers codenamed Harry, Eagle and Dicky. They’re under the command of Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks) of the US Navy in his first wartime command.
They are protected by airplanes who cover them, but when they enter the Mid-Atlantic’s so called Black Pit, they are on their own, out of range of any protective air protection for three days. They first intercept German transmissions coming from a submarine or U-boat. Through sonar contact, the Greyhound manages to sink the submarine.
But their rejoicing is cut short since more dangerous foes come along. A pack of six more submarines are detected and it’s just waiting for nightfall before it attacks them. As darkness falls, the onslaught starts and five merchant ships are torpedoed and sunk. An oil tanker is also hit but Krause decides to help its survivors first before engaging the killer submarines that later mount an attack on the Greyhound.
The villain submarine here is the Grey Wolf and its captain taunts Krause’s crew through radio transmission. He threatens to destroy them all and launches many torpedo runs, damaging Eagle and Dicky, but Greyhound is able to escape from the cat-and-mouse they engaged in. The Greyhound is eventually hit on its port side and three of Krause’s men are killed. There’s a touching scene showing their funeral at sea with Tom delivering last prayers for them.
On their last day in the Black Pit, all the U-boats stage an all-out attack but Greyhound fights heroically, managing to sink Greywolf in a very exciting sequence that sent us applauding loudly. Soon air support from the British Royal Air Force comes to help them and they help to sink down the last remaining submarine. The Greyhound and its crew is cheered for their bravery and victory at sea under Captain Krause.
Tom Hanks starred in one of the best war films ever, “Saving Private Ryan”, and he also produced two great HBO war mini-series, “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”. Unlike other bloated epic war films that run for nearly three hours, “Greyhound”, is only an hour and a half long. It’s designed mainly to be a thriller presented from the perspective of those on board the Greyhound.
The movie works really well in creating suspense and increasing the tension in many scenes, as the crew in the destroyer tries to peer beneath the waves and locate the danger of the U-boats lurking below them. If you’re looking for better character development, we don’t really get to know much of the crew memnbers manning the differnet boats here.
Even the character of Tom Hanks doesn’t have much of a background, except that he is a very pious man who believes in the power of prayer and wants to marry his girlfriend (Elizabeth Shue, in a very short role) before he left for his voyage, but she demurs as she says they’re living in crazy times. He invests the character with much conviction, shouting orders about rudders and nautical degrees the way he forcefully played the beleaguered airplane pilot in “Sully”.
Tom’s very lean script concentrates on the combat elements and he and director Aaron Schneider’s no-nonsense treatment manages to rev up the suspense in a lot of scenes. The boats here can be considered as characters in themselves, but the ones who will truly enjoy it more are Naval people who are familiar with all the technical terms used throughout the movie.
“Greyhound” is one movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen where the battle scenes at sea would be more spectacular. And with the right sensurround system, it could also be a more immersive cinematic experience. It’s just too bad that the pandemic caused it to be shuffled off from theaters and be shown on Apple TV.