Greyhound is a 2020 war film directed by Aaron Schneider and stars Tom Hanks in the lead role as Commander Ernest Krause, who commands the US destroyer USS Keeling or ‘Greyhound’. Tom Hanks is no stranger to war films, especially when it comes to the Second World War – Saving Private Ryan where he starred and Band of Brothers which he helped produce and also had a cameo role in.
Greyhound is one of the increasingly made-for-Netflix type of movies doing the rounds – in this particular case, it is available on Apple TV+. However, the movie does well in terms of action sequences and the pace of the story. The characters sadly are not that well written. The prime focus is on Commander Krause (Tom Hanks) while the rest are just glad to be with Hanks in a movie.
Greyhound is set during the Battle of the Atlantic as Allied shipping is plagued by the German U-boat “Wolfpacks”. Greyhound is charged with escorting a convoy of Allied ships to England. The Allied convoy is commanded by Commander Krause, on his first wartime mission which judging his seniority seems hard to believe.
The convoy enters the ‘Black Pit’ – a mid-Atlantic segment which is out of range for Allied aircraft and rife with U-Boat “Wolfpacks”. An initial encounter with a German U-boat leads to Greyhound using depth charges to sink the German submarine. Their respite is short-lived as they receive distress signals from Allied merchant vessels at the end of the convoy which have begun to be attacked by U-boats. As Greyhound assists the merchant ships, they learn that several German U-boats are waiting for nightfall to attack the convoy.
As night falls, the German Wolfpack launches their assault. Several Allied ships are sunk and Krause and Greyhound rescue the crew of a sinking oil tanker while the attack goes on in full swing. The next day, the German Wolfpack commander, calling himself “Grey Wolf” (I know…eye rolling hard here), taunts Krause and threatens to sink the whole convoy. With Greyhound down to its last six depth charges, Greyhound begins a cat-and-mouse game with the U-boats and one of the supporting ships sinking. Together Greyhound and the remaining destroyer sink another U-boat but Krause is forced to break radio silence to request “Help” from the British Admiralty.
On the final day, in the region of no air-cover, the Germans mount an all-out assault on the convoy. In pure Hollywood fashion, a German torpedo glances off Greyhound instead of sinking it like it did to the others in the convoy. A reason for the same could have been that Greyhound was an American destroyer and had Daddy Hanks on it, who even the Coronavirus couldn’t sink. After heavy fighting, Greyhound sinks the lead German U-boat and the poor Grey Wolf.
At the last moment, as the last remaining U-boat approaches Greyhound for the kill, the RAF show up sinking the German submarine with depth charges. This is similar to the ending of another of Hanks’ movies “Saving Private Ryan”, where as he sits wounded on the bridge with a German Tiger tank about to run over him, American fighter aircraft show up and destroy the tank. Tom Hanks has excellent luck when it comes to getting air-support at the right moment. As the relief shows up, Greyhound enters a safe port for repairs. As the convoy moves towards a new objective, they salute the bravery of the destroyer crews as Commander Krause finally gets to relax.
Greyhound is only 92 minutes long so character building isn’t really a priority for the film-makers. What it counts on is a fast pace and relentless edge-of-your-seat action. Schneider’s direction is such that he never lets go of the audience’s nerves or let’s them forget what is at stake. The pace is exhilarating and Tom Hanks and his second-in-command Lieutenant Commander Charlie Cole (played by an excellent Stephen Graham) play their parts brilliantly. Greyhound places its protagonist under constant attack, which means he has to think quickly, move faster, and speak loudly enough to make it past the latest attack. Imagine being hunted in the middle of one of the world’s largest oceans, and having to fend off small boats that can be as sneaky as they are deadly.
In tone, when it comes to Hanks’ movies, Greyhound is more like the “Bridge of Spies” than “Saving Private Ryan,” but did an excellent job in keeping me invested in the outcome of the story. With this or any war, it’s all about the sacrifice of ordinary men and Greyhound portrays it well. Do take the time to watch Greyhound – it is thrilling entertainment for 92 minutes.
Definitely watch if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat