Two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, but he’s perhaps best known for the many times he’s played captains, whether those shot into space (Apollo 13), battling ocean pirates (Captain Phillips), or landing a commercial airliner in the Hudson River (Sully). In Greyhound, now streaming on AppleTV+, Hanks stars as Captain Ernest Krause, the commander of a Navy destroyer leading a convoy across the North Atlantic responsible for delivering valuable supplies to the Allied forces. The 90-minute film is a gripping drama that never lets up as Krause and the ship’s crew scramble to avoid torpedoes from the many Nazi U-boats that skulk in the dangerous area of the ocean called the “black pit.”
Greyhound was scheduled for theatrical release, but like so many other films during the pandemic, is now relegated to streaming. While a larger screen and enhanced sound would certainly have made Greyhound a “must see” event, the film holds up well enough when viewed on a home device. In fact, anyone prone to sea sickness might feel queasy watching the large vessel being tossed around in the roiling sea. Those expansive scenes alternate between the tight ones inside where the camera focuses on the anxious faces of Krause and various crew members as sonar picks up the growing number of U-boats circling the Greyhound.
The screenplay, written by Hanks, was adapted from The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester. Published in 1955, the novel itself was inspired by actual events from the Battle of the Atlantic, which was the longest running military campaign during World War II. The convoys were tasked with transporting desperately needed supplies to Great Britain. It was a treacherous undertaking since once in the frigid open sea, the ships no longer had protection from military air escorts. Between 1939 and 1945, 3,500 Allied merchant ships and 175 Allied warships were sunk, with some 72,200 Allied naval and merchant seamen perishing.
Krause is a religious man, praying before and after the battle. He’s forced to make difficult decisions at every juncture. Should he stop to rescue survivors from a merchant ship that has just been hit, or race to aid another that is in danger? Hanks’ face shows the agony he feels with every crew member that dies or is injured. While the ship is in danger, he doesn’t eat or sleep and stays on deck so long that when he finally pulls off the slippers he has taken to wearing, his feet are swollen and bloody.
Aside from Hanks’ Krause, there’s little character development, with the focus remaining on the action, and there’s plenty that provides us with a front row seat to every encounter with a U-boat or a torpedo. (Yes, watching on a larger screen, admittedly, would have delivered an even bigger punch.)
Greyhound reminds us that during extraordinary times heroes appear. That’s something to hold onto during these difficult times.
Greyhound can be streamed on AppleTV+
Top photo credit: Niko Tavernise