Movie Review: 'Greyhound' is Relentlessly Exciting
Greyhound is a fast paced, short and exciting World War 2 set action movie.
Greyhound is an exciting, fast paced, action movie written by Tom Hanks and directed by Aaron Schneider, a director not exactly known for fast paced action. Schneider directed the slow paced, not particularly well remembered Get Low, about a character played by Robert Duvall as a man struggling to plan his own death and burial. Get Low is actually a pretty good movie but it doesn’t exactly prepare you for the whipsaw action of Greyhound.
Greyhound is the code name for the USS Keeling, an American Destroyer class ship in the Atlantic in the midst of World War 2. At this time, German U-Boats dominated the Atlantic making supply runs from the U.S to England a harrowing mission. For three days ships had to fend for themselves with no air cover as fighter planes and bombers couldn’t make the full length of the Atlantic. Air cover could only go part of the way, then it would be up to destroyers to protect a fleet of supply ships using cunning strategy and speed to keep the U-Boats from destroying the supplies.
Better historians than I could explain that U-Boats killed thousands before Destroyers and strategists, like the man portrayed by Tom Hanks in Greyhound, devised ways to protect the supply ships. Hanks’ Captain Ernest Krause is not based on any real life Captain but rather on the legend of many of these remarkable men who managed the awesome task of surviving what many saw as a death sentence given the U-Boat domination of the seas.
In this story, Captain Krause is making his first Atlantic crossing. We will watch as he learns alongside his crew, makes mistakes but also demonstrates remarkable leadership. Krause is the main character and we are never out of his orbit. Over the three days that the Greyhound is in open water, playing cat and mouse with German U-Boats, the Captain barely eats, rarely sleeps and stands for so long his feet begin to bleed.
If he’s stressed, he doesn’t let on about it. Hanks allows Krause to appear weary and never macho. It’s a wonderfully deft balancing act. Many other actors and screenwriters might spend time calling attention to the manly toughness of a Captain who refuses to step away from his post. Hanks manages to ground these unusual and risky traits in a character who is whose main strength is competence, good instincts and unshakable will.
The direction of Greyhound is top notch action but also pretty terrific as a character piece. I enjoyed an early scene that showed Hanks’ character as tender and vulnerable opposite Elizabeth Shue in a cameo as Krause’s girlfriend. There is a world in that story as he asks her to join him for training so that he can ask her to marry him before he goes on his mission, something she rejects. These few minutes of screen-time, with two people of an advanced age, implies an expansive past in just a few moments and scraps of dialogue.
Hanks manages to establish Krause as a man of faith, a romantic and a quirky leader whose manner of speaking indicates intelligence, ego and command. Then the movie kicks truly into gear with a middle section that rarely relents on the action. Much of that action is made up of Hanks running from one side of the ship to the other while shouting instructions that must be carried out with Swiss watch precision if they are going to work.
Greyhound, and Destroyer’s of its era, had to be fast and skinny, they needed to cut through the water and pivot on a dime to evade torpedoes and that creates an unrelenting pace, perfect for an action movie. I don’t care that most of the dialogue of the middle section is boat jargon about rudders and right full this and left full that and all ahead whatever, and so on, all that stuff just means we get to see this super cool ship do things you never imagined a ship of that size ever did.
And yet, we know that Destroyer’s such as the Greyhound existed. They were built specifically to battle the German U-Boats and protect fleets in ways that larger ships could not. It’s very cool getting to see this and director Aaron Schneider keeps a relentless pace until the final minutes where he allows everyone to breathe. At a brisk 81 minutes, not including a lengthy end credits sequence, Greyhound is relentless without being exhausting.
Greyhound starts on Apple TV July 10th.