He was captain of a ship in 2013’s “Captain Phillips,” and fought in World War II in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan.” Tom Hanks returns to the sea and the war in Apple TV+’s “Greyhound.” Originally scheduled to hit theaters in the summer, “Greyhound” was picked up by Apple TV+ because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen, my father’s television was more than enough to enjoy the World War II thriller.
Based on C.S. Forester’s novel, “The Good Shepherd,” “Greyhound” starts with a speed bump as U.S. Captain Ernest Krause (Hanks) meets with the apparent love of his life Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue). The actors converse and exchange gifts, while displaying absolutely no chemistry. Shue is lifeless and Hanks fails to pick up the slack. To make matters worse, this opening scene doesn’t factor into the film whatsoever. Every movie doesn’t need a romance.
With that needless scene out of the way, “Greyhound” takes the audience to the “Black Pit,” which is an area of the Atlantic Ocean where supply ships aren’t covered by air support. The ships have to fend for themselves for a few days as they cross the ocean to Europe. Krause captains the Greyhound, which is a destroyer, alongside a few other destroyers tasked with protecting the supply ships from German U-boats.
Once the convoy enters the “Black Pit,” the movie takes off. “Greyhound” gives the audience a feel for what this task was like for the Navy. The intensity and pace of the film keeps the viewer on the edge of his or her couch. Krause makes decisions at a rapid rate. Some are right and some are wrong, but the film does a nice job establishing it is impossible to cross the ocean unscathed. The audience sympathizes Krause as he has to make impossible choices at every turn.
Hanks also wrote the script, and I thought it was really impressive the film made characters screaming ship jargon, such as right full rudder, incredibly watchable. The shots also didn’t vary that much as the whole movie takes place on the Greyhound. Still, the film proved engaging.
The visuals were also great, along with the framing of certain shots. “Greyhound” captured some intense sequences where ships are barely avoiding torpedoes and tipping to a 45-degree angle as they turn at rapid speeds. It also has a beautiful and scary sequence when the camera rises into the clouds so the audience can see all the distress signals shot off at once and ships under attack. The U-boats also prove intimidating as they dive and slowly ascend to the surface.
“Greyhound” also introduced elements of a naval battle I never thought of before, such as friendly bullets bouncing off water or U-boats and hitting an ally’s ship, vessels almost colliding and having to wait for an allied ship to pass before firing. Whoever was responsible for the naval choreography did an incredible job with research because it all felt real.
Hanks was solid as usual, but I wanted to know more about his character. At a brisk 1 hour and 30 minutes, the film didn’t have much time to explore his personality. While I sympathized with the positions he was put into and rooted for him, I didn’t feel a connection with Krause. There were scenes where it looked like Krause felt unsure of himself and didn’t want to see dead bodies. While the audience doesn’t need to have things spoon-fed to it with exposition, the movie could have shown the viewers scenes with Hanks before he went into battle. If it cut Shue out of the film and developed Hanks’ character more instead, “Greyhound” would have been a bit better.
I also think “Greyhound” could have explored Krause’s cook Cleveland (Rob Morgan). The film sets up a running dynamic between them, but doesn’t provide much closure. I really think the film should have been two hours to fill in the gaps.
The other things that bothered me were the couple scenes when the Nazis tap into the convoy’s radio frequency and start taunting them. It’s a little too over-the-top villainy. The scenes aren’t needed because the filmmakers do a beautiful job establishing the U-boats’ intimidation factor. The audience doesn’t need to see the enemy’s faces or hear their voices. That was something 2017’s “Dunkirk” did to perfection. The audience never saw the Germans. They just saw the bullets fly and planes drop bombs. That was enough to ramp up the tension.
That being said, the film’s main purpose was to show what life in the “Black Pit” was like for a captain and crew during World War II and it absolutely nails its purpose. The shots, dialogue and pace give the viewer an intense and satisfying experience.
My dad and I tend to enjoy movies involving some sort of ship or submarine (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Crimson Tide,” “U-571”). While the character development could have been a little better and the runtime could have stretched a little longer, there’s a place for “Greyhound” among the better films in that genre.
4 out of 5 stars