This film will not join the list of Tom Hanks’, great, tension-filled dramas including Captain Philips, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. Set in the early days of the war, WWII buff, Tom Hanks both wrote the script and stars as Naval Captain Ernest Krause. The script is based on C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel, “The good Shepherd about Krause’s first voyage leading a convoy of 37 Allied ships bringing troops, supplies and armament to beleaguered England through U-Boat infested waters.
Cinematographer turned Director, Aaron Schneider covers the action in the Atlantic. It the first feature film he has directed in 10 years. He does a credible job showing the action and the strategy used by the Captain in the Atlantic, but repeated use of Naval jargon becomes somewhat confusing and meddling. There is also little character development showing personalities of Krause and his sailors.
The centerpiece of the plot is the battle scenes and the cat-and-mouse game between Krause and the u-Boat Commander who taunts him over radio transmissions. The movie was shot in Louisiana, so the winter Atlantic Ocean seen on screen is a total CGI creation that isn’t completely believable. Most of the time the frame is filled with close-ups of Krause. He’s an enigma. It’s clear the wheels are turning inside his head, but he never shows his hand. The result is that we, the audience, are kept emotionally at arms-length.
The opening scene is a real head scratcher. We’re introduced to Captain Krause as he meets his love, Evie (Elisabeth Shue) in a fancy San Francisco hotel lobby at Christmas-Time, 1941. Hanks is 64 years-old and Shue is 56 and they appear to be a long-time couple, yet we find they are still courting. There is so little chemistry when they meet. Evie rebuffs his marriage proposal but advises they wait til after the war. This half-hearted romantic piece of Krause’s life is never resolved in the movie other than that his will to live is tied to his love. But we never see Evie again.
The scene shifts to sea and we know things are dangerous because the heavy-handed, unrelenting, pounding musical score by Blake Neely (TVs Bat Woman, The Flash). That tells us as much along with title cards informing that the convoy is entering the “Black Pit” where the ships are most vulnerable to U-Boat attack. Director Aaron Schneider uses graphics throughout to identify various ships and subs. Maybe he realizes the nighttime visuals are so dark and muddy he needs to help us make sense of what we’re seeing.
The movie is all about Krause and his leadership under unending extreme conditions and stress. What little we learn of any backstory is that he is a man of faith, always pausing to silently pray before every meal, that, by the way, is never consumed. That’s a running joke. He always ends up gulping down another cup of coffee instead. Even though we know little about Krause, we know nothing about any of the other men on the ship. Krause doesn’t even learn their names. At times, Hanks’ script introduces the notion he might be losing some of his mental capability through fatigue. The only crew member who gets a little passing attention is the second in common, Cole, played by Stephen Graham. And we could have learned more about the Chef who kept trying to feed him, played by Rob Morgan (Mudbound).
Greyhound was originally slated for theatrical release before the pandemic and Apple TV+ picked it up. That might have been a good decision. Hanks and Director Schneider for Director Schneider and Hanks’ mission was to make this an epic story honoring the service and sacrifice of the sailors who helped turn the tide of the War. Frankly, this film comes closer to fulfilling that mission on the small screen.
Apple TV+ 91 Minute s PG-13
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