Tom Hanks is the above the title star of “Greyhound,” a new naval thriller now streaming on Apple TV+, but the star of the film is the tension that takes hold in the first ten minutes and does not let go.
Set during the onset of the United States’ involvement in World War II, Hanks plays Commander Ernest Krause, a stoic sailor on his first command. His mission is to lead an international convoy of 37 Allied ships across the North Atlantic with a wolfpack of German U-boats in hot pursuit. Running out of depth charges and fuel, the convoy needs air cover which is hours away.
That’s it. “Greyhound” Isn’t so much story driven as it is propelled by the action. In a breathless ninety minutes director Aaron Schneider, working from a script written by Hanks, adapted from C. S. Forester’s 1955 book “The Good Shepherd,” ratchets up tension, creating an old-fashioned action movie that mines a life and death situation for real cinematic thrills. That being said, there’s no fight scenes, you never see the face of the enemy and the only dad bodies are wrapped in linen, getting a proper burial at sea.
Inspired by the Battle of the Atlantic, the movie takes place completely on board the USS Keeling (Call sign “Greyhound”). Krause is in the ship’s claustrophobic helm for ninety percent of the running time, barking orders, peering through binoculars, making hard decisions with consequences that will affect the lives of hundreds of people.
Hanks plays Krause as a man with nerves of steel who hides his concern behind his furrowed brow. In the heat of battle every second counts and both Hanks and Schneider understand that the mental gymnastics required to do the job must be front and centre. This is a movie where the fiercest action is verbal. Sure, there’s gunfire, torpedoes and explosions, but the exciting stuff comes from Krause’s mental perspective. Never have coordinated turn equations and rudder work been this exciting.
“Greyhound” was originally set for a theatrical release. The more sweeping shots, those of the ships as specks in the vast ocean, feel like they would have benefited from the big screen treatment, but the story, driven by intellect, the effectiveness of team effort and old-fashioned thrills, works well in any format.