Digital: Greyhound (2020)

September 11, 2020 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  Apple TV+ / Sony

Region: n/a

Released: n/a

Genre:  War / WWII / Drama

Synopsis: Dramatic depiction of an American Captain tasked with protecting the allied convoy of supplies to England against vicious Nazi U-boat assaults during the thick of WWII.

Special Features:  (none)




Originally produced by Sony Pictures and slated for a June 2020 theatrical release, Greyhound’s big screen debut was stymied when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and although Apple TV swung in to the rescue, its July 10th debut and restricted availability on Apple TV+ means Tom Hanks’ lean adaptation of C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd will likely not enjoy a Blu-ray release in the immediate future.

Forester’s background as a novelist of waterbound adventure tales include the 1951 film Captain Horatio Hornblower and the episodic TV movies Hornblower (1998-2003), so Hanks had fertile material for his very lean screenplay which follows Capt. Krause’s first tour protecting merchant supply ships from the U.S. to England in 1942, and the deadly expanse known as The Pit, where Nazi U-boats would wound & sink ships as the convoy travelled a nerve-racking stretch of the mid-Atlantic without immediate air support.

Elizabeth Shue has a blink-fast-and-she’s-gone role as Krause’ reluctant fiancée – a part that’s quite reminiscent of the wife (Helen Hunt) a Fedex executive (Hanks again) is separated from while stranded on an uninhabited island in Cast Away (2000). No matter; the fleeting flashes of Evelyn offer moments of ephemeral peace as Krause is kept on his feet for more than three days while the USS Keeling, using the call name Greyhound, is constantly trying to thwart U-boats, and the insidious ‘You’re next!’ taunts which the submarine’s leader wails to the convoy.

To Hanks’ credit, the script is about one thing: the crew pulling together as Krause makes fast decisions to keep them and the convoy afloat, and alive. Technical terms flow like poetry, and are counterpointed with rapid camera movement as Krause glides from one side of the small craft to another, reacting to imminent and immediate danger. Although the Greyhound is joined by several British and a Canadian vessel, Krause is the leader, and within the film’s actual 83-odd minutes of onscreen drama, Greyhound presents just the nuts & bolts of the chase, with little room for any respite. (The ongoing motif of Krause never managing to get a single bite of breakfast paints him as a driven leader with a stern but fair taskmaster’s hand, and introduces the African American sailors who work the mess, and similarly put their lives on the line when the Greyhound has several chilling close calls.)

The direction by veteran cinematographer Aaron Schneider is an unusual balance of modern & classical – great visual effects which are neither showy nor drive any scene’s pacing. The editing is measured and punchy only when absolutely necessary, and most of the coverage – filmed on the storied USS Kidd – bounces almost exclusively between deck, conn, and radar rooms, and Schneider avoids clichéd montages of engineers or loading of torpedo counter-measures. The explosions between the Nazi wolfpack subs and the Greyhound and her collegiate protectors aren’t designed as kinetic, sound effects-heavy overkill. Even the Bondarchuckian aerial shots of the defensive maneuvers avoid dizzying flash to ensure proper continuity for viewers.

Composer Blake Neely, who also scored the Hanks-produced WWII HBO series Band of Brothers (2001) saves his warm-toned heroic music for the finale, and scores most of the film with an interwoven grinding motif that also propels the grungy action cues – more impressionistic than standard bombast, but still warm with bass, and filling most of the 5.1 soundscape.

While not a landmark epic, Greyhound is a modest production through which its makers present heroic acts and the addictive tension of marine warfare in a tight narrative – Hanks’ adaptation stayed away from some of Krause’s marital backstory and introspective ruminations – and sheds light on another facet of the deadly cat & mouse game where many souls were lost during the carnage of WWII.



© 2020 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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