Tom Hanks is a lover of World War II history. His passion for the subject has resulted in films and mini-series depicting the ground wars in the European and Asian theaters of combat.
In 1998, he starred as Captain Miller in Steven Spielberg’s genre-defining war epic Saving Private Ryan. In 2001, the Spielberg and Hanks served as executive producers of the 10-episode HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. Nine years later, the two men reunited as producing partners for The Pacific, an HBO mini-series that chronicled the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Okinawa .
In Greyhound, a film recently released on the Apple + streaming service, Hanks turns his attention to the naval battles of 1942 that determine control of the Atlantic Ocean during a critical time in the war. The screenplay, written by Hanks, is based on C.S. Forester’s novel, The Good Shepherd, and chronicles the journey of an Allied naval convoy as it attempts to avoid German submarines and bring much-needed supplies to England.
Hanks plays Captain Krause, a long-time Navy veteran who is given command of the Greyhound, a U.S. destroyer. The Greyhound is escorting a collection of merchant ships and military craft through the most dangerous 48 hours of their Atlantic crossing.
Sailors call it “The Black Pit” – the No Man’s Land where American and British air support cannot reach the convoy, and German U-boats attack at will.
Greyhound is a tight, thrilling ninety-minute film that briefly introduces a few of the main characters before plunging us into the chaos of naval warfare. Hanks’ screenplay doesn’t shy away from naval jargon and tactics. The details give Greyhound a sense of authenticity without confusing the audience.
Director Aaron Schneider maintains an excellent sense of “geography” during the action sequences. Viewers know where the various ships and submarines are at all times which makes for a greater appreciation of the strategy behind the maneuvers and counter-maneuvers being executed by the various captains.
Where Saving Private Ryan spent time letting the audience get to know its characters, Greyhound is more interested in depicting the rigors of naval warfare. We know Captain Krause is a devout Christian, and he has a woman back home in the civilian world that he hopes to marry.
Beyond that, we simply see the man in action, making split-second decisions that can cost hundreds of lives if he makes the wrong call. Greyhound drips with the paranoia and tension of being surrounded by unseen enemies who may surface and destroy you without warning.
In the youth-driven culture of today, many film fans have written off Greyhound as a “dad flick”, something that might appeal to fathers and grandfathers, but no one else. That could not be further from the truth. Greyhound is a throwback to the days of classic war films. It will enthrall teenagers and grandparents alike.
Sony Entertainment planned on releasing Greyhound in U.S. theaters in time for the Fourth of the July. The COVID pandemic had other ideas. Rather than postpone the film to 2021, Sony cut a deal with Apple + to drop the film on their streaming service instead.
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