A Bigger Boat

Available on Apple TV+ is “Greyhound,” the new WWII actioner written, produced and starring Tom Hanks. At 91 minutes, the movie lives up to its titled namesake- it’s a fast, sleek snapshot of a heroic two-day mission.

 The set-up is simple: Three months after Pearl Harbor launches the U.S. into World War II, Capt. Ernie Krause (Hanks) is given his first naval command of a destroyer, the U.S.S. Keeling (codenamed Greyhound). He’s given the mission to escort 37 ships carrying soldiers and supplies to Britain. Aided by a few other destroyers, Greyhound must sail through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for two days without the protection of air support and fend off Nazi U-boats hell-bent on destroying the convoy of supply ships.

 “Greyhound” may be simple, but it’s skilled. With just enough character background to know that Krause is a God-fearing man who must wait until the war’s over to marry his sweetheart (Elisabeth Shue), the movie launches right into the mechanics of the military operation. With a 50 hour stretch lying between reconnecting with air support, Krause must contend with a series of crises: destroying submerged German U-boats that require Greyhound’s launching depth charges at precise locations, responding to distress flares from supply ships needing aid from attacking surfaced Nazi subs, circling within the convoy to protect the ships while their own supplies to defend them diminish. Thankfully, with dialogue that’s limited to barking coordinates and action set amid a stormy Atlantic Ocean, viewers never lose their place verbally or visually.

 Keeping everything clear in the chaos is the neat trick Hanks and director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) pull off. With the rapidly growing succession of stumbling blocks set before Greyhound, it could have been a muddled affair, but it’s edited well enough to keep the action interesting. Also, “Greyhound” maintains its tension even with its technical trappings. As for acting, it’s admirable all-around with Hanks standing center as the humble, hard-nosed hero.

 Based on the novel “The Good Shepherd” by C.S. Forester (best known for the Horatio Hornblower stories as well as his novel “The African Queen”), “Greyhound” stems from patriotic propaganda- Forester wrote to rally Americans to support the WWII war effort. The movie keeps that energy up and even provides “Jaws”-esque popcorn thrills in its depiction of the advancing Nazi U-boats: though called a wolfpack, they resemble sharks as they surface with their top sails resembling dorsal fins.  Grounded in the glory of those who served, “Greyhound” is an audience pleaser that fulfills its purpose.

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