Film: Greyhound

Ever since Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks has channeled his fascination with World War II into everything from Band of Brothers to The Pacific to Masters of the Air. An easily overlooked stop on this historical tour is Greyhound (2020), which was denied theatrical release by the pandemic before winding up on Apple TV. Like the aforementioned projects, Greyhound focuses on a specific theater: in this case, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the challenges, dangers, and hardships faced by allied naval forces as they carried troops and materiel across the Atlantic Ocean at the height of the war.

Directed by Aaron Schneider, Greyhound follows the harrowing first mission of Captain Ernie Krause (Hanks, who also wrote the script). Krause commands a destroyer escort, its mission to protect a large convoy of ships journeying from North America to England in support of the war effort against Nazi Germany. At the beginning and end of the trip, the convoy benefits greatly from air support, but in the middle is “the Black Pit,” wherein the convoy is completely on its own—and at the mercy of U-boat wolf packs. The mission goes well at first, but the deeper into the Pit the ships go, the more dangerous the combat and the more difficult the decisions. Through it all, Krause remains at the helm, pushing his body and mind to the limit, determined to see the convoy to safety.

Greyhound does provide a rare cinematic glimpse at an under-explored theater of the war, and the combat sequences are quite well executed, if hampered by naval combat’s less-than-immediate, uncertain nature. Hanks, of course, is quite good as the doggedly heroic ship’s captain. Unfortunately, there isn’t much personality to the film, which—unlike the Hanks-produced limited series mentioned—doesn’t have time to build an emotional connection to a roster of characters, which might have made their peril more involving. With the exception of Stephen Graham as Krause’s XO and Rob Morgan as a heroic cook, the crew is largely undistinguished. The focus remains on the tense, tactical experience of the voyage, and its physical and emotional toll on Krause. The result is an engaging and educational film, but also one that is stiff and mechanistic in its rhythms.

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