Greyhound is a surprisingly good movie, and is definitely worth viewing. Given its rather poor ratings among both audiences and critics (ranking in the bottom third of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies), and receiving only a single technical nomination, for best sound, my expectations weren’t high. But it was written by Tom Hanks (who stars in it as well), so I was a bit confused as to why it didn’t score higher in popular and critical opinion.
To be sure, you can find fault with this film. There is really just a single character with any development at all, and that is Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Krause. Krause is a World War II naval officer escorting 47 assorted cargo ships across the Atlantic, on their mission to bring valuable supplies from the US to allied ports in Europe.
This is Captain Krause’s first mission. In the early scenes, we learn much about the man, including that he has left Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue), a woman he loves very much, at home and that he is a very religious man, who prays before bed and every meal. His humility and confidence are made all the more believable in Hanks’ portrayal—he is perhaps the actor with the best reputation for integrity of anyone in Hollywood! But Captain Krause is ultimately the subject of this movie: no other character is developed to any degree at all.
As long as you know that going into this movie, then your expectations will be properly adjusted and met in overwhelming fashion. The movie details one harrowing situation after another as Krause battles a “wolfpack,” a group of German U-Boats out to sink as many of these supply boats as they can. Krause’s ship, along with three other allied warships, are the only protection this merchant fleet has as they cross the “Black Pit,” the area beyond the range of supporting aircraft, in the middle of the Atlantic. During this 50-hour period, the fleet has to rely purely on their own resources.
Just 90 minutes long, this film brings to life the intricacies of battle on the high seas more effectively than any other movie I can think of.
Ships don’t maneuver quickly on the water, as land vehicles can. And so it is all the more remarkable when, by deftly making rudder and propeller changes, Krause is able to steer his destroyer between enemy torpedoes, or avoid collision with one of his own huge cargo ships as he zig-zags across the sea. It is Krause’s decision-making, coupled with incredible amounts of good luck, that are elevated in Greyhound to become the basis for an action-packed hour of tension that will have you rooting for the good guys with zeal, like old-fashioned war movies are supposed to do.
In the end, viewer reaction to this movie will depend on how they define a hero. Younger generations may tend to see heroes in people from films like The Avengers, whereas some of us older folks define a hero in simpler terms. Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com) wrote that Greyhound “certainly feels like a film tailor-made for dads of a certain generation—people who don’t want anything overly complicated or nuanced in their stories of heroism.”
Captain Krause is not Captain America. He is more the modest, humble, and efficient man that men like Hanks, and myself, saw in our fathers. So, yes, this is probably going to be most appreciated by us Boomers. And for us, it is a 4-star movie.