Review: Tom Hanks is the Captain Now in ‘Greyhound’
By Daniel Rester
Just by learning that Tom Hanks was the star and the subject matter was WWII for Greyhound, I assumed it was based on a true story. I mean, this is the actor who has played real-life heroes Richard Phillips, Walt Disney, Chesley Sullenberger, Ben Bradlee, and Fred Rogers all in the last few years and who has been bringing WWII projects to life for decades. Alas, Greyhound is not a true story. But it has an authentic approach to its time period and subject matter, and it was even written by Hanks as a passion project.
Hanks has written and directed two features before that he has also acted in, those being the comedies That Thing You Do! (1996) and Larry Crowne (2011). Here he tackles the war drama genre, but while he has acting and writing credits, the directing credit of Greyhound goes to Aaron Schneider; the latter last directed Get low (2009) over a decade ago. The project by Hanks and Schneider is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester, which details naval combat in the Atlantic during the war.
Greyhound follows Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks) as he and his crew aboard the ship codenamed “The Greyhound” protect a supply convoy on its way to Britain. Near the shores of America and Britain there is air support available, but out in the “Black Pit” of the Atlantic there is only naval escort availability. Krause and his men must fight off a wolfpack of German U-boats over the three days or so of crossing the gap section.
After a brief introduction scene with Krause saying goodbye to his girlfriend Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), Hanks and Schneider thrust us into the Greyhound’s mission with an all killer, no filler approach. Hanks’ script is full of naval jargon and wall-to-wall action sequences, leaving little room for characterization for the supporting players or moments of respite for any level of deepness. On Schneider’s side, he does fine at presenting the scale and intensity of the situations, but there isn’t much nuance in his touch either.
Basically, Greyhound does what it does well, but it’s what it doesn’t do that disappoints and makes it feel thin. Hanks brings some subtly effective work to Krause, but we don’t know much about the commander other than that he prefers coffee over food. Stephen Graham, who was so good in The Irishman (2019) recently, plays an executive officer and is the only supporting character who is even a little bit memorable.
Despite this hollow core, Greyhound is still exciting at times and has an old-fashioned Hollywood war picture feel. The CGI is hit and miss, but the editing by Mark Czyzewski and Sidney Wolinsky finds coherence in the chaos and the cinematography by Shelly Johnson is always wide and clear. The music score by Blake Neely is laid on thick at times, but one element of it involving a whale-like noise is creative and gives some flavor to the action.
At just 91 minutes, including credits, Greyhound is a fast-paced naval combat film with a solid performance by Hanks. With little character attention, it’s a bit empty emotionally at times. Still, I think its strengths outweigh its weaknesses in how it portrays the at-sea battles of WWII.
My Grade: 6.8/10 (letter grade equivalent: B-)
MPA Rating: PG-13 (for war-related action/violence and brief strong language)
Running Time: 1h 31min
USA Release Date: July 10th (streaming on Apple TV+)