Tom Hanks is in command yet again. In his fifth turn as the commander of one vessel or another (sixth if you count the shrimp boat Jenny), the esteemed actor dons the double stripes of captain once again, this time in Greyhound as Captain Krause in charge of the USS Keeling (callsign: Greyhound), a destroyer tasked with protecting a fleet of merchant and troop ships during World War II.
As in every one of his previous goes as vessel chief, Hanks brings a somber dignity and calming grace to his role here. Not surprisingly, it’s as if his presence alone can end a war. Something sorely needed in Greyhound because this high stakes game of cat and mouse opens with a white-knuckled fury and never lets up for its brief but action packed 90 minute run. Think Mad Max on the high seas. The only constant in this salty thriller is Hanks, whose presence – despite the lingering dread and worry on his face – lends a much-welcomed gravity and strength as the film’s moral compass.
In this story, inspired by actual events and based on the book “The Good Shepherd" by C.S. Forester, Hanks is a first-time captain who leads an impressive convoy of military men and materiel across the North Atlantic Ocean to fight the Nazis in Europe. As the convoy reaches the “Black Pit” – an area in the middle of the ocean where no friendly air cover is available – Captain Krause and his convoy are on their own to fight off the relentless attacks from hidden German U-boats. And boy, are those Wolfpack’s fearsome!
Other than a brief opening scene in which Krause exchanges Christmas gifts with future wife Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), Greyhound is non-stop action from beginning to end. We’re put inside the captain’s bridge where chaos seemingly reigns supreme as bodies skitter about the cramped cabin like ants tending a queen. Meanwhile lights flash, sonars ping, and every order is repeated as every man has a place to be and a duty to perform. It’s a beautifully choreographed symphony with a magnum opus of death and destruction.
We’re introduced to the ship’s cannons, its battery of depth charges, red nighttime running lights, “huff-duff” radio direction finder, and the “man your battle stations” alarm. It’s all a military geek's wet dream. However thrill seekers, danger nerds, and adrenaline junkies alike will have plenty to wet their bed over as well.
The film, directed by Aaron Schneider (Get Low) who works from a script written by Hanks, features a lot of CGI, most of which works, with only the occasional shoddy bit of craftsmanship getting our attention. Most of the shots inside the bridge are from the USS Kidd currently moth-balled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while almost all the action shots are computer generated. Regardless, the technology used is quite impressive and makes for a breathless high seas thriller. And at a briskly-paced 91 minutes, there’s simply not enough time worry ourselves with any of the film’s visual shortcomings. After all, the next call to battle stations is most assuredly just over the next wave.
Save for a few moments on the ship’s outside decks to observe enemy positions, we’re never given a single moment to relax as a relentless barrage of Nazi U-boat attacks wreak havoc on the convoy, threatening the allied supply chain. “Full rudder, left!” “Regular rudder, right!” “Full speed ahead!” As a relentless chain of ships in the convoy explode, Captain Krause barks orders while enemy subs and deadly torpedoes skim the Greyhound’s hull, having barely missed their target.
Rarely does such a non-stop sensual assault work. Conventional filmmaking wisdom says give the audience a break. But no sooner is the celebration of a sunken sub over than the next call for general quarters rings throughout the ship’s coms. But as the tension builds with one ship after another getting blown to bits, we realize there’s no rest for the weary as Krause dances about the ship in a deadly game of whack-a-mole, getting no rest and having little time for meals.
Not unlike the titular ship’s treacherous voyage through the “Black Pit,” Greyhound’s journey to the big screen has had to dodge a few torpedoes itself. It was announced in early January 2019 that Sony was pushing back the film’s release to March of this year. Then, Covid-19 happened and now the film is available on VOD via Apple TV’s streaming service.
Push play on Greyhound and man your battle stations! Prepare for a full-on assault to your home theater system.
(Released by Apple TV+ and rated “PG-13” for war-related action/violence and brief strong language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.