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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Greyhound’ – Tom Hanks stars in engaging World War II movie full of tension

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A movie poster of "Greyhound"

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

A victory at sea for writer/star Tom Hanks, his entire cast and crew and us – their lucky audience, “Greyhound” gives moviegoers a gripping taste of the World War II combat zone known as the Battle of the Atlantic.

This chillingly ruthless cat-and-mouse game between Allied ships and German subs was played out on the choppy seas of an area known as The Black Pit.  Essentially, convoy ships bearing goods for the Allies, were granted precious air cover at the beginning of their voyage by Americans and at the end of their journey by the Brits.

But in between was The Black Pit, a vast killing field, so to speak, where there was no such protection and all that stood between the convoys and roving Nazi U-Boats were escort destroyers.

Tom Hanks in a scene from the new “Greyhound” movie

“Greyhound” is the fictional tale of one such trip. But given that it’s based on “The Good Shepherd,” a 1955 book by C.S. Forester, who authored the Horatio Hornblower series, you can pretty much count on its accuracy.

Capt. Krause (Hanks) is a career Navy man undertaking his first such command in the wake of Pearl Harbor (the year is 1942). Devout and steely-eyed, he is nonetheless a newbie and for a brief time, we’re not sure if he’s more Mister Roberts or Captain Queeg.

This only adds to the considerable tension, as danger seems to lurk under every whitecap. And tension is something “Greyhound” has in spades – at the expense, some might carp, of everything else. Never mind character development, dialogue, that sort of thing. This movie, directed with admirable efficiency by Aaron Schneider, is about getting from here to there as safely as possible.

Full Confession: from the moment Hanks bids his longtime girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue) farewell in San Francisco to the moment he’s greeted by his Brit counterparts with the stiff-upper-lip-cliché, “Jolly good job, Greyhound,” I had only the slightest idea what was going on. And it mattered not a wit. “Greyhound” has a surging “You Are There” energy that plops you down among those in peril on the sea and then…well, you ‘re pretty much on your own.

A movie poster of “Greyhound”

There are explosions, torpedoes, massive guns, ships going down in flames, screaming men, snarling German bad guys. At one point, a giant convoy comes so close to the Greyhound it all but runs it over.

But Hanks the screenwriter, Hanks the star and Hanks the man as obsessed with honoring “The Greatest Generation” as coined by Tom Brokaw, knows how to tell this story. The barked commands don’t make much sense. Nor does the make-it-up-as-you-go-along strategy.

It just doesn’t matter.

The Nazi subs need to get the hell out of our way, and we need to get the hell to Derry for a pint. Things rarely seem that simple anymore and handed one such adventure by some ace moviemakers, gratitude seems only appropriate.

“Greyhound” is available for viewing on Apple TV+.

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Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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