Tom Hanks hits, misses with ‘Greyhound’

Rick's Reviews

Tom Hanks stars in the World War II drama “Greyhound.” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

It is necessary to both praise and protest the work Tom Hanks has done with the World War II drama “Greyhound.”  He brings his usual command of the screen playing the role of U.S Navy Commander Ernest Krause but fails to create a seaworthy story through his own screenplay.

“Greyhound” – based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester – deals with Krause’s first command with the U.S.S. Keeling (code sign Greyhound). He has been assigned to escort a convoy of ships taking troops and supplies to England during the war. The area between the United States and England where airplanes lacked the range to supply support was a prime spot for German U-boat attacks.

Hanks is such an acting treasure, he could read the telephone book and make it either engagingly dramatic or side-splittingly funny. His latest turn at playing a captain has him playing a deeply religious man who knows he has a duty to perform. But, he takes little satisfaction in killing.

It is good that Hanks is such a huge presence whenever he’s on screen because other than him – and a wasted brief appearance by Elisabeth Shue – the rest of the cast is a muddled mass of men. Hanks was the same kind of dominating force in “Saving Private Ryan” but the supporting cast in that military drama was far more developed.

Hanks doesn’t need a supporting cast but it would have been a plus to have gotten to know at least a few of the men under his command.

A lot of that problem comes from the screenplay by Hanks. He opted for a more stripped down version of Forester’s book foregoing many of the emotional threads for long scenes of sailors shouting and repeating commands.

It is clear that Krause is a man of high morals but this would have been a very interesting storyline to follow if Hanks had written at least a few scenes where Krause talks about his internal conflicts. Even the scant moments at the beginning where Krause expresses his love is played with such brevity that it ends up looking more like a commercial for another movie rather than part of this tale. Shue is a strong performer and the lack of opportunity for her is criminal.

Hanks weighs down the movie with naval technical jargon with endless commands for turns to port and starboard. The lingo adds authenticity to the film but eventually sounds like repetitive babble.

There’s also a brief look at the technological problems faced during the war in regards to radar and sonar. A little more explanation of why this was such a problem would have been nice.

And there was plenty of time to add dialogue whether it be for character development or technical clarifications. The movie runs a scant 80 minutes if you don’t count the closing credits.

If you are a fan of basic war movies or Tom Hanks, “Greyhound” is entertaining. It’s not the best captain Hanks has played (that honor goes to Capt. Sully in “Sully”) but he continues to show with this film how the average person often ends up having to make life-and-death situations. His characters are always completely relatable.

Without Hanks, “Greyhound” would have been a B-grade military exercise. He just has the magical acting ability to lift any project.

That lift could have been a lot higher if Hanks had written a stronger script. His stripped down version of the book has all the nuts and bolts but lacks the emotional engine to make it move at top speed.

“Greyhound” was originally scheduled to be a theatrical release in June but the quarantine closed all movie theater complexes. Director Aaron Schneider is better known as a cinematographer and it shows with the way he photographs each scene. A larger screen would have done more justice to the naval battles.

Instead of opening theatrically, “Greyhound” was purchased by the streaming service of Apple TV+. It will be available to subscribers starting July 10. It is a little surprising the movie wasn’t released on July 4.

Grade: 2 ½ stars.

Rated: PG-13 for war violence and language.

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