What’s The Story?
Tom Hanks is Ernest Krause, commander of the USS Keeling. In the middle of World War 2, this destroyer with the call sign ‘Greyhound’ has been tasked with escorting a convoy of Allied supply ships across the Atlantic to Liverpool. Crossing the ocean means crossing the ‘Black Pit’, an area in the mid-Atlantic that’s out of reach of air support and patrolled by wolfpacks of German U-boats.
The convoy is not far into the Pit when the first sub appears. Soon there are more, their sails breaking the ocean’s surface like shark fins. It’s Krause’s first time leading a convoy and he’s in at the deep end. As well as the torpedoes, there are radio threats from an implacable U-boat commander.
Hanks’s commander is heroic, but he’s not a superhero. He’s weary and he’s going to have to make some tough decisions: pick up survivors from one ship or go to the rescue of another boat in the convoy? To survive the deadly cat-and-mouse game with the U-boats, he’s got a bible, a trinket from his lover and black coffee from his galley steward. At one point he even slips into a comfy pair of slippers. The outcome of the game is not a foregone conclusion, making this a tense, suspenseful thriller.
Who Are The Stars?
It is all about Hanks. He wrote the screenplay and Krause is the film’s dominant figure. Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham and Rob Morgan do solid, unshowy work as his lover, second-in-command and galley steward respectively, but Greyhound is really a one-man character study –crafted and delivered by a supreme actor.
Krause is a stoic character to add to Hanks’s burgeoning collection of everymen in difficult situations (Captain Philips, Sully, Saving Private Ryan…). For the two-time Oscar winner’s first screenwriting job, he’s adapted The Good Shepherd, a novel by CS Forester, a naval specialist who also wrote the Horatio Hornblower series. His work there too is consummate.
Thanks to director Aaron Schneider, Greyhound comes in at an hour and a half. There’s not an ounce of fat on it. In this stripped-back setting, everything counts. Exquisite small details – Krause getting a subordinate’s name wrong, the near bungling of a burial at sea – convey the dicey human element of the Battle of the Atlantic and make the jeopardy so much more real.
Who’s It For?
Greyhound was scheduled for release in cinemas until Covid-19 happened. Apple TV+ has picked it up and it’s a great hook for the relatively new streaming service. It’s worth the £4.99 for a month’s subscription – if you haven’t used the offer already, it’s certainly worth a seven-day free trial. More important films have been released since lockdown (Da 5 Bloods) but this is the best new film to come out while the cinemas have been shut. In an era of bloated three-hour superhero movies, Greyhound is a lean, old-fashioned pleasure.
Watch it now on Apple TV+