If there had been a premiere for Aaron Schneider’s “Greyhound” with Sony Pictures, I would have happily congratulated the director, the star Tom Hanks, and his son Chet, who gives a striking cameo performance in this taut World War II battle drama.
“Greyhound” debuts on Apple TV Friday, it was supposed to be released by Sony in theaters. I sure hope they give it a chance this winter in some theaters because these people worked their asses off to making a very convincing, edge of your seat battle film that’s 90 minutes long and never lets up.
Schneider, who hasn’t had a movie in 11 years since “Get Low” (where was he?), has done a top notch job directing, and Hanks himself wrote the screenplay. It feels a lot like Clint Eastwood’s “Sully,” in which Hanks starred. There isn’t a lot of character development, but the casting is good enough that you get the idea about Capt. Ernie Krause as he steers his ship through the treacherous water of North Atlantic in 1942 heading to the UK with a convoy of ships from Canada and Britain trying to dodge Nazi U Boats.
“Greyhound” is fiction in that novelist CS Lewis took the idea for his story in the novel, “The Good Shepherd,” which this inspired, from the real Battle of the Atlantic, the longest every military exercise that ran from 1939 to 1945. Merchant ships had to cross the Atlantic during WWII. These military ships had to protect them. It was not an easy business: at least 75,000 men Allied seamn died over the years. The Germans lost 28,000 out of 41,000 men. Ships were lost. Lewis invented Captain Krause as a religious man who wound up leading a convoy for the very first time in a terrifying crossing.
“Greyhound” probably looks great on a regular movie screen. If you have a large TV set, you’ll appreciate Shelly Johnson’s excellent cinematography. The whole production looks terrific; I’d like to know how they pulled it off for $50 million. Bravo.
Tom Hanks, as usual, pulls off a master class performance. His acting and his writing really seem to be inspired by Clint Eastwood’s later work–there’s no fat, it’s very intense, you’re in the grip of the work. Lewis wrote it that way in his novel. You’re just experiencing this relentless attack through Krause. And all you know about Krause is that he has a lady friend waiting for him played by Elisabeth Shue, who is always a welcome sight.
There’s some very good work among the supporting cast, starting with Rob Morgan and including the accomplished British actor Stephen Graham. There are a lot of young guys as the seamen, all well chosen. I did notice an actor from TV’s “One Tree Hill” named Lee Norris (fans will say I know that guy). But special kudos to Chet Hanks, Tom’s son, who has a really great turn with his dad on screen, quite different than his half brother Colin Hanks. Chet, who’s had his share of non acting publicity, acquits himself beautifully.
Schneider gives “Greyhound” a documentary feel. For Hanks, it’s a little bit “Captain Phillips,” only for a bit until the action begins. And then you don’t have time to think about other movies.