Tom Hanks has gone behind the scenes in the past to make movies. The award-winning actor so lovingly wrote and directed the cult favorite That Thing You Do! and Hanks’ creative side has been sprinkled upon many a project ever since. In 2016 it was announced Hanks would write Greyhound, a World War II naval war film based on C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepard. Produced by Gary Goetzman, this project experienced some release delays (it was originally slated for theatrical release on March 22, 2019) but it’s finally available to watch on Apple TV+.

Greyhound is a no-nonsense film – U.S. Navy Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks), on his first war-time assignment, captains the USS Keeling (codename: Greyhound) and leads a convoy across the Atlantic Ocean. He, alongside naval ships from other Allied nations, must protect merchant ships from German submarines. His lack of experience will be tested for the entire journey.

Greyhound is similar in vein to Dunkirk – director Aaron Schneider (2009’s Get Low) focuses almost entirely on the mission. That means Greyhound doesn’t worry much about backstories or subplots. The only aside is the prologue – Krause meets with his girlfriend Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue) just before Christmas, where he asks her to join him on a trip before he leaves for training. It initially looks out of place, but Hanks wants to establish Krause’s inexperience. It’s a decent move but ultimately forgotten (and Shue is simply too talented to be relegated to a cameo) once the convoy runs into the German subs.</p>

With a running time of 91 minutes, nearly the entire film occurs on the ship’s where Schneider and Hanks waste to time applying drama. So, despite there being an abundance of room (there are scenes which take place outside), Greyhound feels like a submarine thriller. There’s plenty of tension, which increases significantly because of the conveyed tight space. There are times when naval battles occur at night, so the lack of sight makes a claustrophobia-inducing area, full of men looking to Krause for guidance and strength, even smaller. And speaking of vision (or lack thereof), viewers rarely see the convoy’s adversaries – the German submarines are obviously submerged much of the time, while the crews of those U-boats remain unseen.

Hanks works alongside a cast composed of Stephen Graham, Michael Benz, Rob Morgan, David Maldonado, Jimi Stanton, Matt Helm, Tom Brittney, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Karl Glusman. All of them play members of the Greyhound’s crew and contribute majorly towards accomplishing the mission. Hanks did a fantastic job conveying how a naval crew works (its themes of comradery and brotherhood are evident and pair well with some of Hanks’ past projects, such as the 2001 TV mini-series Band of Brothers and 1998's Saving Private Ryan). Each person has an essential role and if one of those pieces fails, then everything fails. The value of teamwork has been conveyed before in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October and 1995’s Crimson Tide, but the immediacy here is more apparent.</p>

Made on a rumored budget of $50 million which, by today’s standards, makes Greyhound an economical approach to a wartime drama. That’s not a bad thing since its simplicity allows Schneider more focus. The photography is fantastic, thanks to cinematographer Shelly Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger), while Blake Neely’s (Love, Simon) score gives the proceedings a patriotic vibe.</p>

Greyhound isn’t the greatest war film, but it’s an effective one. It’s worth a look since Hanks provides another strong performance as Krause proudly projects a man who’s cool under fire.

3.5 stars out of 5

 


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