Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


‘Greyhound’ wages war on the water

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Many of our greatest stories have revolved around warfare. From the great epics of the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago to the continued proliferation of war movies today, the tragedies and triumphs of the battlefield have been major subjects of our storytelling since we first began telling them.

We’ve already seen one strong entry into the war movie canon this year with Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” but we can add another to the list courtesy of “Greyhound,” currently available on Apple TV+. The film – directed by Aaron Schneider from a screenplay adapted by Tom Hanks (who also stars) from the C.S. Forester novel “The Good Shepherd” – is a throwback of sorts, an ode to the WWII films of the past, telling the tale of the men tasked with protecting trans-Atlantic convoys in the empty stretches too far from shore for air support.

It’s a sharply-paced, engaging war movie, one that finds interesting ways to juxtapose the vast and harsh expanse of the ocean with the nigh-claustrophobic confines within a warship. It also captures the pressures that land on the shoulders of those in command, pressures that are exponentially heightened by the simple fact that the enemy is often invisible. That air of dread and anticipation – and the heroism that it takes to stand strong and fight anyway – permeates the film.

In the early months of 1942, Captain Ernest Krause (Hanks) assumes his very first command. He is placed in charge of the destroyer USS Keeling – codenamed Greyhound. Along with three other ships – two British destroyers (codenamed Harry and Eagle) and a Canadian corvette (codenamed Dickie) – Greyhound is tasked with serving as a protective escort to Convoy HX-25, consisting of three dozen ships heading across the Atlantic to Liverpool.

For the journey’s initial leg, the convoy has added protection from the air. Same for the final leg when they approach the English shore. But there’s no such protection for the middle leg, the dangerous mid-Atlantic stretch nicknamed “The Black Pit.” In that space, Greyhound and its fellow warships are the sole protection for the cargo ships in the convoy – ships that will inevitably be targeted by the German U-Boats that are proliferate in the area.

So it is for Captain Krause’s first run.

It is only a matter of hours after their air support returns to shore that the convoy comes under attack. Krause and his crew are soon engaged in a battle of wits with a group of U-Boats, a self-styled “wolf pack” of submarines determined to pick off the ships one by one. There are a couple of initial skirmishes, but the real fight begins after nightfall. The captain – along with his executive officer Charlie Cole (Stephen Graham, “The Irishman”) – must do whatever he can to stave off the attacks.

It’s a deadly game of cat and mouse, and there’s no help on the horizon. In fact, they must get beyond that horizon to have any chance of saving the convoy and surviving the trip. And for them to have any hope of doing so, Captain Ernest Krause has to lead them there.

“Greyhound” would have been a perfect fit as the blockbuster war movie we get every-ish summer. It’s a great-looking film with plenty of well-executed naval action, capturing beautifully the contrast between the vastness of the ocean and the cramped quarters in which these sailors must do their respective duties. Throw in the notion of doing battle with a largely unseen enemy and you’ve got something that is tense and taut and thrilling to watch.

We’ve seen a fair number of WWII-era ocean-centric films in recent years; this film fits nicely into that general oeuvre, falling short of the brilliance of something like “Dunkirk” but outpacing the still-quite-solid “Midway.” There’s something undeniably engaging about the idea that these isolated groups of men, living and working on and in huge floating masses of metal, doing battle in an environment where any misstep could mean a watery grave. It’s an ideal way to capture the scale of warfare on both macro and micro levels.

Aaron Schneider hasn’t made a narrative feature in a decade – his last movie was the excellent “Get Low” back in 2009 – but you wouldn’t know it from the confidence he displays behind the camera. He had some run as a cinematographer as well, so his eye for composition is no surprise. He handles the wide-set battle shots and the tightly chaotic interiors with equal verve. And Hanks has crafted a fine screenplay, only his third (1996’s “That Thing You Do!” and 2011’s “Larry Crowne” are the others); his adaptation manages to make accessible the constant and somewhat repetitive voicing of orders and commands, giving a real sense of the importance of constant and consistent communication to naval combat.

Hanks is great. Big surprise, I know, but he is. He’s always had a particular knack for portraying this sort of man – a noble and self-effacing hero who would never call himself heroic, a person with a gentle but firm commitment to a strong moral compass. Ernest Krause isn’t perfect, but he is a good person in word and deed … a person who warrants our admiration. The combination of confident command and relative inexperience is tough to pull off, but Hanks makes it work.

The rest of the cast, as is often the case in a film like this, feels largely interchangeable. The identical uniforms and hats and constant motion make it tough to distinguish between them. They’re all solid, though. Aside from Graham – who’s low-key excellent – the rest tend to blend together, but not in a bad way. They are uniform, yes, but they are uniformly GOOD.

“Greyhound” is a strong entry into the war movie canon. It’s a taut, tight 90 minutes, telling its story with style and economy. Hanks is successful in both facets of his actor/writer double duty, and the film itself gives a brief glimpse of an aspect of WWII – the years-long Battle of the Atlantic – that many might not know much about. This is a film that fights the good fight.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Sunday, 12 July 2020 12:31


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine