Pros: Tom Hanks acting; filming on board a real World War II destroyer; the stress of combat conveyed through the routine operations of sailors at their posts; music and sound; lack of unnecessary pathos Cons: Computer graphics look a little excessive at times; some questions about the logic of what is happening Greyhound / “Greyhound”
Genre war drama
Directed by Aaron Schneider
Starring: Tom Hanks (Ernest Crouse), Elisabeth Shue (Evelyn), Stephen Graham (Charlie Cole), Rob Morgan (George Cleveland), Manuel Rulfo (Lopez), Karl Glusman (Eppstein), etc.
Sony Pictures Studios, Apple TV+
Year of release 2020
I always believed that the Fletcher class destroyers won the war…they were the heart and soul of the small fleet.
Lieutenant Commander Fred Edwards
We probably agree with Tom Hanks, who dreamed of seeing Greyhound on the big screen. The tension of the film, which is essentially one long 48-hour battle, skillfully pumped up by an unsettling soundtrack and powerful sound effects, would probably be better felt in a cinema hall, where the sound can be felt even in the chest, and the screen takes up most of the field of view. But even on television the film looks good – this is a high-quality military drama telling about two days in the life of the captain of a destroyer of a convoy escorting civilian ships in the North Atlantic.
Greyhound, whose screenplay was developed by Hanks himself, is based on the novel The Good Shepherd by marine writer Cecil Scott Forester. This is one of the few works by Forester dedicated to the Second World War; the writer gained fame from a series of novels about Captain Hornblower, the events of which take place much earlier, in 1794 – 1848. The hero of The Good Shepherd / Greyhound is the captain of the destroyer USS Keeling, Ernest Crouse, who received his first assignment on the ship and is sent across the Atlantic as the commander of an escort group for an American convoy. Naturally, on his first trip, Krause encounters one of the famous “wolf packs” of Admiral Doenitz.
The film was directed by Oscar winner (for the short film Two Soldiers) Aaron Schneider, who has not worked in big cinema for more than ten years. However, he and Hanks managed to create a very unusual film that, through the routine of the simplest operations, through the staccato orders and short texts of radio exchange between ships, conveys the colossal tension of naval combat, the burden of responsibility lying on the shoulders of the captain. There is no pathos at all in Greyhound, the battles here take place mainly in the depths of command posts and conning towers, the tension is conveyed through the squeaking of the sonar, the nervous handwritten marks of ships on the map and the changing values of azimuth and range. There are several spectacular battle sequences in the film, in which the USS Keeling deviates from torpedoes, comes close to a civilian ship, or shoots a surfaced submarine with all its guns, but completely different moments are frightening and cause nervous tremors.
For greater realism, Greyhound was filmed on board the real World War II destroyer USS Kidd (DD-661). This Fletcher-class destroyer, the most prolific class of warship in history, has become a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The sea scenes were filmed on board a modern ship, the Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montréal (FFH 336).
As in the original novels by Cecil Scott Forester, the filmmakers do not bother to explain nautical terminology, bombarding the viewer with dialogue that is almost 80% jargon. And, unlike Forester’s novels, there is no maritime dictionary at the end of the book. If you are familiar with the terminology, you will swim out, if not, well, you will lose some of the pleasure from watching.
Greyhound focuses almost one hundred percent on the figure of the captain, that is, on the character of Hanks. This is his fight, his responsibility and his mistakes. The rest of the film’s characters are nothing more than auxiliary organs that the captain needs to control the ship and fight. Actually, this is what the film is rightly criticized for: the images of the characters, except for Hanks’s, are completely unrevealed here. The film’s running time is short, but the intensity of events is high; there is simply no time for emotional tossing and lengthy conversations.
But what we definitely have questions about is the logic of what is happening. How can an officer who has just received command of a ship and is setting off on his first military campaign be appointed commander of a convoy? Nonsense. How and, most importantly, why do the boats of the “wolf pack” get in touch with the enemy? Why would boats even hunt a nimble and dangerous convoy ship, since their target is transport workers? In addition, the most attentive fans of maritime history will certainly notice the discrepancy between the classes of boats operating within the same flock, the time period, the discrepancy between the emblems on the deckhouses, etc. Yes, this is important for some, but I think we will forgive the filmmakers for these small liberties; nevertheless, they needed to show the hunters as some kind of underwater demons, somewhat impersonal and deadly.
Prior to the film’s release, Greyhound was compared to the legendary underwater epic Das Boot (1981). No, Greyhound undoubtedly does not live up to the masterpiece of Wolfgang Petersen and Lothar-Günther Buchheim, yet Buchheim himself served on that boat and described what he saw with his own eyes, and the story told in Greyhound is fictitious. However, Greyhound complements Das Boot well, allowing you to look at submarine warfare from a different perspective. In any case, it’s a good film that’s worth watching, even if it’s not quite in the format that Tom Hanks would have liked.
An excellent war drama, which, although not superior to the legendary Das Boot, complements it well