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"GREYHOUND"
(2020) (Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
War Drama/Action: A newly assigned captain tries to protect a convoy of ships heading across the North Atlantic from waiting German U-boats.
PLOT:

It's 1942 and newly assigned Captain Ernest Krause (TOM HANKS) has the command of the USS Keeling, a.k.a. Greyhound, one of four Fletcher Class Destroyers deployed to protect a convoy of thirty-seven Allied ships heading across the North Atlantic toward Liverpool.

With air support unavailable in the middle of the trip known as "the black pit," Ernest along with his crew -- that includes XO Charlie Cole (STEPHEN GRAHAM), navigator Lt. Watson (TOM BRITTNEY), sonar operator Epstein (KARL CLUSMAN), and crewmate Bushnell (CHET HANKS), among many others -- must keep a watchful ear and eye for German U-boats patrolling the waters, while steward Cleveland (ROB MORGAN) tries to keep the captain fed.

As the 50-hour duration of the lack of air support slowly ticks by, Ernest must use all of his training, smarts and instinct to find and sink the subs all while being a target themselves.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

My dad, who died in 2007, was in the U.S. Navy during WWII, trained as a radioman and tail gunner with service aboard the USS Enterprise. As was the case for most of those who served as part of "The Greatest Generation" he rarely spoke of his service to me, my sister or our mom (who met and married him in the following decade) and thus we knew and still don't know much about his experiences.

Thus, when I briefly met Tom Hanks at an award show a few years ago, I thanked him for highlighting the service, sacrifice, and honor of so many who served seven decades earlier but remained stoically reserved afterward. I had heard that the Hollywood star was in a sour mood that evening, and he didn't appear eager to chat as I approached him. But his mood changed instantly when I mentioned my dad and his service, and as Hanks exited our brief encounter, he left with a brief "God bless him."

I thought of that while watching the Oscar-winning actor play the lead in "Greyhound," director Aaron Schneider's adaptation of C. S. Forester's 1955 work of fiction, "The Good Shepherd." Besides the obvious connections, what had that crossing my mind is that Hanks -- who also wrote the screenplay -- plays that shepherd in the stoic but heroic sort of way that you can just imagine him decades later rarely if ever speaking of his service and its harrowing moments.

Intentional or not, we pretty much know next to nothing about his character -- Captain Ernest Krause -- or anyone else for that matter who appears during the film's sleek running time of 91 minutes. Aside from noting that he's a highly religious man who prays in his quarters and before barely consuming any meals delivered to him by the ship's steward (Rob Morgan), we see only a brief side of his personal life.

And that's during a flashback to two months earlier where he -- having just received his first command weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor -- tries to convince his girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue) to accompany him on his training so that he can properly propose to her on a tropical beach. Citing the currently upside-down world and wanting to wait until they can be assured of being together till death do them part, she turns him down. His disappointment is fleeting and we can see by the look on his face (Hanks is so good in such moments) that he's quickly acknowledged the situation at hand and moved on.

That forge ahead mindset comes in handy as we next see the captain leading the small contingent of light warships -- his being the USS Keeling, codenamed Greyhound -- as they leave the last vestiges of air support and head across the so-called "black pit" of the North Atlantic. Their mission is to protect a convoy of thirty-seven Allied ships from German U-boats surely lurking beneath the turbulent, gray waters.

It's not long before they must contend with just that, and while the crew -- that consists of the likes of Stephen Graham as the XO, Karl Glusman as the sonar operator and Hanks' son, Chet, playing one of the crewmembers -- initially has their concerns about this being his first command, Ernest shows not only his mettle in destroying an attacking sub, but also humility in acknowledging his responsibility in the loss of fifty souls, even if they're the enemy.

What follows are plenty of moments just like that, with very little downtime in between and little to no development regarding any of the characters. Much like Rod Lurie's recent "The Outpost," Hanks and Schneider's mission seemingly is to drop the viewer directly into the maelstrom to experience, vicariously, what it must have been like during some combat.

Those scenes are undeniably intense and visceral, even if some of the effects work doesn't always stand up to photo-realism, thus giving away the relatively modest production budget. Even so, and despite being relegated to the small screen in these pandemic times and the story never figuratively plunging beneath the surface in terms of character exploration, it's still a riveting and ultra-sleek cinematic experience. And for that, "Greyhound" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed July 6, 2020 / Posted July 10, 2020


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