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Tom Hanks offers gripping return to WWII with ‘Greyhound’

AT A GLANCE

Greyhound

Directed by: Aaron Schneider

Starring: Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Michael Benz, Rob Morgan

Rated: PG-13

Available: July 10 on Apple TV+

Critical rating: 3 stars out of 4

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

By Forrest Hartman

Tom Hanks is giving movie fans another compelling, World War II history lesson and – intentionally or not – proving that Apple TV+ is a bargain. 

“Greyhound,” Hanks’ new WWII drama, was originally intended for theatrical release, but Apple purchased the film, and subscribers to the company’s premium streaming service have access beginning July 10. Considering that the service costs only $4.99 a month and that subscribers get not only “Greyhound” but a host of other content, it’s tough to find a downside. For the $40 or so a family would have dropped to see “Greyhound” in theaters, everyone can watch and gain access to eight months of additional content. Quick aside – check out “The Morning Show,” “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” and “Dickinson” before you cancel. 

Hanks – who wrote the “Greyhound” screenplay with inspiration from the C.S. Forester novel “The Good Shepherd” – has lamented the small screen-only approach in at least one interview, and his concerns have merit. “Greyhound” is the type of production-heavy spectacle that truly benefits from larger-than-life presentation. Because the movie centers on naval warfare, the crashing of waves and thump of depth charges would play better in a theater. That said, watching at home is still a pleasant experience and – again – it’s hard to beat the price. 

The movie is a simple-but-well-crafted affair that runs only 91 minutes, most of that time spent establishing the unpredictable and frightening nature of high seas combat. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, a first-time destroyer captain charged with protecting a merchant ship convoy during a dangerous Atlantic crossing. Set during the Battle of the Atlantic, the movie pits Krause against a group stealthy U-boats determined to destroy as much of the convoy as possible. 

Although the movie has a substantial cast, the emotional focus is on Krause and his personal struggles. As a first-time captain, he rarely rests and frequently second guesses his own decisions, but he does so quietly, maintaining a confident and grim demeanor for his crew. Additional players, including Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Michael Benz and Rob Morgan are included entirely as background, demonstrating the type of leader Krause is and showing that combat decisions take a personal toll no matter the outcome. 

There are movies that do a far better job examining the moral quandaries of combat. There are also films that span a greater time period, putting World War II into sharper focus. In fairness, neither Hanks nor director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) attempt these loftier goals. They seem entirely satisfied telling the story of a single man … while also doing a fine job allowing the audience to experience naval warfare. That is a reasonable goal for a movie, and they succeed. 

Just as “Saving Private Ryan” allowed moviegoers to storm the beach at Normandy and “Memphis Belle” put them aboard a B-17, “Greyhound” gives a close up look at life aboard a WWII destroyer. During the course of the film, viewers witness everything from near collisions to a showdown with a surfaced U-boat. The production design is outstanding, and the combat sequences are harrowing, as they should be. “Greyhound” may be a modest movie, but it is effective. Although it is fiction, viewers comes out of the picture with a better understanding of the dangers that seamen faced during the height of World War II, so Schneider and Hanks receive high marks for execution. 

“Greyhound” is easily worth a one-month subscription to Apple TV+ … even if one watches no additional content. This is especially true when one considers that many other movies that were originally planned for theaters are charging  on-demand fees as high as $19.99. 

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