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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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Video Verdict: ‘American Hustle,’ ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,’ ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

From left to right, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence star in “American Hustle.”

Three Academy Award-nominated features lead this week’s crop of home video releases.

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Video Verdict: ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Blue Jasmine,’ ‘Machete Kills,’ ‘In a World…’

Tom Hanks stars in the Academy Award-nominated drama “Captain Phillips.”

Tom Hanks stars in the Academy Award-nominated drama “Captain Phillips.”

Two movies that earned multiple Academy Award nominations lead this week’s crop of new videos.

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Video Verdict: ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Texas Chainsaw’

Alexandra Daddario, left, plays Heather Miller and Dan Yeager plays Leatherface in the horror-thriller “Texas Chainsaw.”

Alexandra Daddario, left, plays Heather Miller and Dan Yeager plays Leatherface in the horror-thriller “Texas Chainsaw.”

This week’s home video releases include a bloody, R-rated horror film and an elaborate epic with a star-studded cast.

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Video Verdict: Great movies for the July 4 holiday

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this Independence Day, there are plenty of great titles available on home video.

No major theatrical releases are making their way to video this week, so it seems like the perfect time to suggest some movies that are sure to put an exclamation point on your July 4 holiday. All of the following are readily available on home video.

“Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942): This charming film tells the life story of real-life entertainer George M. Cohan (James Cagney). That may not sound patriotic, but the movie smacks of the red, white and blue because Cohan wrote a number of America’s most-beloved patriotic tunes. His songs “Yankee Doodle Boy,” “Over There” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” are all featured in the movie, and James Cagney is outstanding in the lead role.

“The Patriot” (2000): This Revolutionary War saga isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice choice for Independence Day. The film is set in 1776, and it tells of Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran soldier who has settled into a peaceful life as a farmer. Alas, when a cruel British officer (Jason Isaacs) kills his youngest son, he decides to fight again. Directed by Roland Emmerich (“2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow”), “The Patriot” is a big, loud blockbuster, but the cast – including Heath Ledger and Chris Cooper – keep things earthy and enjoyable.

“Independence Day” (1996): This Roland Emmerich film is even bigger and louder than “The Patriot,” but it wouldn’t make sense to exclude it from our list. After all, it was named after our July 4 holiday. The plot centers on a widespread alien invasion and the Earthlings who fight back. Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Mary McDonnell star.

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Video Verdict: ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,’ ‘A Dangerous Method,’ ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked’

Max von Sydow, left, and Thomas Horn in a scene from “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Von Sydow’s work on the film earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

This week’s video releases are anchored by a drama that earned two Oscar nominations while taking a fictionalized look at the fallout of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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Video Verdict: ‘Larry Crowne’

Julia Roberts, left, and Tom Hanks star in the dramedy “Larry Crowne.”

It’s a slow week for home video, with only one major theatrical release making its way to stores: a recession-era drama starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

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Video Verdict: ‘Toy Story 3’

From left to right, Jessie, Buzz Lightyear and Woody in a scene from Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”

The only major mainstream theatrical release coming to home video this week is Pixar’s latest. And, like most film’s from the animation giant, it’s a gem.

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Video Verdict: ‘Funny People,’ ‘Angels & Demons,’ ‘Four Christmases,’ ‘Shorts’

Tom Hanks, left, plays symbologist Robert Langdon and Ayelet Zurer portrays physicist Vittoria Vetra in the thriller “Angels & Demons.”

This week’s DVD releases cover a lot of territory. They include a family film from the director of “Spy Kids,” a holiday comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, an Adam Sandler feature helmed by writer-director Judd Apatow and a big-budget thriller starring Tom Hanks.

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